Tridentine Good Friday Prayer

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"The old Missal is going to be changed: A text 'nearer' to the Jews has been prepared"

Published in the Italian newpaper, Il Giornale. English translationcourtesy of Fr. Murray Watson.

Pope Benedict XVI has decided to reformulate the text of the prayer for the Jews contained in the Tridentine missal, whose use was liberalized by the recent Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum: the publication of the new text, which has been entirely reformulated, should take place within days. The reference to the "blindness" of the Jewish people will disappear. The new version will come into force, for celebrations involving those faithful who follow the older rite, beginning with this coming Holy Week.

The older text prayed (in Latin) for the conversion of the Jews, asking God to "lead that people ... out of their darkness" and to remove their "blindness" (a term linked to one in the letters of St. Paul). As you may recall, after the publication of the Motu Proprio which liberalized the use of the pre-conciliar Mass, many concerned voices were raised from within the Jewish world. The Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, the spiritual guides of the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities, had written to Ratzinger, asking for the modification of the Good Friday prayer.

It should be remembered that the path of rapprochement was already initiated under Pius XII, who had asked the Congregation of Rites to specify that the old formulation "pro perfidis judæis" was meant to refer to "Jews, who do not have [the] faith". Pope Pacelli also re-introduced the genuflection as part of this prayer. Beginning in 1959, John XXIII eliminated both the term "perfidis," and the subsequent reference to Jewish "perfidia" [literally, "unbelief"]. It is the text as emended by Pope Roncalli in its 1962 edition (the last edition of the older missal before the post-conciliar reforms) whose use has been liberalized by Benedict XVI in recent months. In that version of the prayer, references to the "blindness" and "darkness" of the Jewish people remained. Last September, Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, the president of the Rabbinic Assembly of Italy, said: "This prayer concerns us. We fear that those who read it could put two and two together, and could draw the conclusion that, if we are praying that God remove the blindness of the Jews, then this means that they are outside the truth, and that this could push some as far as anti-Semitism."

Bishops and clergy who are involved in the [Jewish-Catholic] dialogue have asked the Holy See to intervene, and an openness in that direction was demonstrated last July, by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone who, in Pieve di Cadore, spoke of the possibility of a correction [of the prayer]. Benedict XVI has now prepared a draft of the new prayer, which is to be published in coming days by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. According to some sources, the new version, while omitting the passages judged by the Jews to be offensive, would nevertheless retain the emphasis expressed in the older version of the prayer, that is, on conversion. It is regarding this particular matter that the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Angelo Amato (who was Cardinal Ratzinger's #2 from 2003 to 2005), intervened, explaining to the daily newspaper Avvenire that "in the Mass, we Catholics pray always-and primarily-for our own conversion. And we beat our breasts on account of our sins. And then we pray for the conversion of all Christians, and for all non-Christians. The Gospel is for all people."

Benedict XVI's decision is a hand outstretched [in friendship] to the Jewish community, which has invited the Pontiff to visit Rome's Synagogue. It is common knowledge that Ratzinger would very much like to travel to Israel in 2009, although the present state of the bilateral discussions between the State of Israel and the Holy See, for the resolution of various juridical and administrative problems, does not for the moment leave a great deal of hope [in this regard].