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July 19, 2007 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-07-19

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Jewish Concern

Allowing Latin Mass with conversion prayer
raises questions, sparks outrage.

Ben Harris
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York


measure intended to promote
greater unity within the Roman
Catholic Church by increas-
ing the use of the Latin Mass is sparking
confusion and controversy among Jewish
groups as they scramble to understand the
full extent of the decision.
On July 7, Pope Benedict XVI issued
a motu proprio, literally a declaration in
the pope's own name, authorizing wider
use of the Latin Mass, an older form of
Catholic worship that includes a prayer
read only on Good Friday for the conver-
sion of the Jews.
The pope removed a rule that had
required a bishop's permission before the
mass could be used. Now, the liturgy can
be used on the authority of an individual
parish priest.
Reaction in the Jewish world was
divided between those warning of pos-
sible setbacks in Jewish-Catholic relations
and others saying clarification was needed
from the Vatican before judging the pope's
Leading the charge of those voicing
alarm was the Anti-Defamation League,
which even before the pope's decision
had been made public issued a statement
calling it a "body blow to Catholic-Jewish
The main question for Jewish organi-
zations is whether the pope intends to
permit churches to recite the conversion
prayer on Good Friday. Allowing the
prayer to be read, Jewish communal offi-
cials said, would appear to run counter to
the spirit of Nostra Aetate, the landmark
1965 Vatican declaration, and subsequent
reforms that absolved Jews of responsi-
bility for the killing of Jesus and laid the
groundwork for four decades of improved
Catholic-Jewish relations. In particular,
Jewish groups say that a prayer to convert
the Jews would undermine previous steps
taken by the church recognizing the valid-
ity of Judaism.
According to a Vatican translation of the
pope's decree, masses celebrated "with-
out the people" — that is, when priests


July 19 2007

celebrate mass on their own — may be
older form of Catholic worship."
interpreted over the next few weeks:'
used at any time except for the three days
The problem, some Jewish observers
Massa said. "I think we do owe an expla-
prior to Easter, including Good Friday. No
said, is that on the surface it would seem
nation as to what the motu proprio
similar restriction is placed on the use of
that the Good Friday prayer runs counter
implies about the use of the 1962 missal
masses celebrated "in the presence of the
to Nostra Aetate and other reforms. "It
with respect to the Good Friday liturgy."
Some Jewish groups took a more
cautious approach than the ADL,
as they sought to gain a clearer
understanding of the pope's deci-
sion. In a letter to the Vatican's point
man on Jewish relations, Walter
Cardinal Kasper, the International
Jewish Committee on Interreligious
Consultations sought clarification of
the pope's ruling that the older lit-
urgy not be used in the days leading
up to Easter.
The letter, signed by Rabbis
David Rosen and Richard Marker,
and Seymour Reich, noted that the
pope's commitment to the Catholic-
Jewish relationship would seem to
preclude the use of the Good Friday
prayer, but seeks confirmation that
this is indeed the case. "We appreci-
ate that limitation has been made
on the use of this liturgy leading
up to Easter, but it is not clear as to
The Pope's ruling could be interpreted to allow Good Friday prayers for conversion of Jews.
whether or not this is general," the
letter stated.
Vatican observers broadly agree that
is as if the document Nostra Aetate had
Massa stressed that concern for the
reinstating the prayer for Jewish conver-
never been promulgated and placed in
future of Catholic-Jewish relations are
sion is incidental to the pope's larger goal,
the body of official Catholic teaching,"
unfounded. "I firmly believe that our
which the pontiff himself said was to
said Rabbi Gerald Meister, an adviser to
relationships with our Jewish partners are
come "to an interior reconciliation in the
the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Christian
deep and abiding," he said. "I think we will
heart of the church."
be able to weather the tensions that might
Though praying for the conversion of
arise from certain understandings of the
Emotional Attachment
the Jews represents "a rather primitive
motu proprio."
The Latin Mass is seen as possessing
form of spiritual anti-Semitism," Meister
The criticism of the Vatican by the
a certain spiritual grandeur that some
said, he doubts that the prayer will be
ADL and its national director, Abraham
Catholics — even those who accept the
found in widespread use on Good Friday.
Foxman, was assailed by conservative
wider reforms that did away with the mass "If not, we will have to examine this fur-
pundit Patrick Buchanan. In an article
— have an emotional attachment to.
ther," Meister said. "I'm not going to the
published July 10 on the conservative Web
"It comes from an acknowledgment
barricades right now:'
site Human Events, Buchanan challenged
on the part of the Holy Father, Pope
For their part, the bishops conference
the ADL's claim that it was "hurtful and
Benedict, that there were many Catholics
maintains that Nostra Aetate remains in
insulting" for Catholics to pray for the con-
that had a difficult time in the transi-
force as the focal point for relations with
version of Jews."
tion," said Father James Massa, executive
the Jews.
What is Abe talking about?" wrote
director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical
As to how the church reconciles the
Buchanan, an erstwhile presidential can-
and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S.
seeming contradiction, Massa said alter-
didate. "Indeed, if one believes, as devout
Conference of Catholic Bishops. "They had native understandings of the liturgy
Catholics do, that Christ and his Church
a difficult time in transitioning to the new would likely be forthcoming from Catholic hold the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, it
mass. What they were attached to was the
would be anti-Semitic not to pray for the
beauty, the solemnity, the majesty of the
"I think this document is going to be
conversation of the Jews. Even Abe." El

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