Tridentine Good Friday Prayer

Dialogika Resources

Petition: Regarding the "Prayer for the Jews"

The following petition was signed by more than 500 Italian theologians and pastoral workers. Translation courtesy of Fr. Murray Watson.

With his July 7, 2007 motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," Pope Benedict XVI has reintroduced the possibility of using the pre-conciliar form of the liturgy, in the Latin language, for Eucharistic celebrations. Following upon this measure, this past February 6-Ash Wednesday-the pontiff modified the Good Friday prayer for the Jews which is contained in the pre-Vatican II Missale Romanum, replacing the reference to a "blind people [who must be] torn from their darkness" with the phrasing: "Let us pray for the Jews, that the Lord our God may enlighten their hearts, that they also may recognize Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all people". The Pope's directive was contained in a note from the Holy See's Secretary of State.

Such a change justifies, de facto, an alternative liturgical prayer, one which runs counter to the one currently in use and which seems to us to be in contrast with the conciliar texts Dignitatis humanae (on religious liberty) and Nostra Aetate (on the relationship between the Catholic Church and other religions), in which it is affirmed that "God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues ... the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures" (Nostra Aetate, #4).

Furthermore, this measure seems to clearly contradict earlier magisterial teaching, since it sets itself against what is affirmed in the 1975 Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration ‘Nostra Aetate,' #4, whose first point states: "Dialogue demands respect for the other as he is; above all, respect for his faith and his religious convictions ... By its very nature, the Church must preach Jesus Christ to the world. Lest the witness of Catholics to Jesus Christ should give offence to Jews, they must take care to live and spread their Christian faith while maintaining the strictest respect for religious liberty".

In its post-conciliar version, the Good Friday prayer expresses supplications aimed at the salvation of all people: in the specific case of the Jews, this means praying that they may remain faithful to the Covenant which has never been revoked. "Conversion" is not requested [in these intercessions] for any person, but we pray that they may all follow the Spirit on the path which has been given to them and which, for Israel, can only mean faithfulness to the Covenant. Since, furthermore, Good Friday is the day in connection with which the accusation of deicide was directed at the Jewish people-an unfounded accusation, but the font of a sea of horrible actions [literally, "an abyss of horrors"]-"re-touching" the change which was introduced by the Second Vatican Council appears to be a step backwards, dangerously close to the "theology of substitution of Israel," and able to stir up memories of the older efforts at conversion. This is a position which, it seems to us, must be rejected, on the basis of strict Christian orthodoxy and a correct eschatological perspective.

We could not fail to express our regret over a decision which places more than forty years of dialogue at serious risk, insofar as anything that can make people think of attempts at conversion is irreconcilable with recognizing and respecting the truth in another's faith.