Tridentine Good Friday Prayer

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Bertone and Di Segni on reciprocity and censorship

The following article is from Il Messaggero, Unofficial translation courtesy of Fr. Murray Watson.

Bertone: "Reciprocity regarding the Prayer for the Jews";

Di Segni: "We have already self-censored our prayers"

BAKU (March 9) - The Catholic Church asks "reciprocity" of the Jews in matters which may cause friction between the two faiths, in particular as regards the controversial Good Friday Prayer for the Jews contained in the new Mass in Latin, since "prayers which could be or should be changed" exist "on both sides". The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, made these comments in Baku, the capital of the republic of Azerbaijan.

On the question of the Good Friday prayer in Latin, which has provoked Jewish protests, [Bertone], who is awaiting the arrival next week in Rome of a [Jewish] delegation, said that "many Jewish representatives have understood rightly the meaning of the prayer which, let us clearly state, involves [only] a well-defined part of the Catholic world (here he is referring to the traditionalist 'wing'), for whom this has forced them to take a big step forward, both with respect to the Jews and to the older prayers". On the other hand, the Secretary of State, who is going to issue an official declaration on this topic, noted, "as many highly-respected Jewish representatives have written, there are prayers on both sides which could be changed, and perhaps ought to be changed". He added: "What is called for is an approach of reciprocity, of respect in the affirmation of one's own identity, without desiring the forced conversion of anyone, but proposing one's own faith with the greatest possible respect [for others]".

There was an immediate response from Rome's Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni: "Jewish prayers have already been self-censored, centuries ago," Di Segni informed the prelate in a communiqué. "What has been brought to our attention once more is a history of polemics which goes back thousands of years, concerning which some clarifications are in order. Anyone can hear for themselves the prayers which Jews recite today, and they can easily be verified, even in translation," Di Segni emphasized. "The essential fact," he added, "is that today no reference to Christians exists in our prayers, which, among other things, have been the object of repeated interventions of censoring and self-censoring. The Hebrew texts were changed centuries ago, long before the Council." "Another fundamental difference lies in the use that has been made of these prayers," Di Segni continued. "No Jew has ever gone out and asked someone to convert, whereas, on the contrary, the principle-of-faith of the prayer asking for the conversion of the Jews has consistently been accompanied by missionary pressure. It is absolutely necessary," concluded Rome's Chief Rabbi, "to overcome the harshness of these polemics, by seeking to understand how a fertile type of communication between these two worlds can be possible, in which each is respectful of the identity of the other".

In the background of the current frictions, there is the question of the preconciliar version of the Catholic prayer for Good Friday, which was re-introduced by Benedict XVI as a possible liturgical option, as part of the Latin missal. It is a prayer which was recently "softened" by the Holy See; no longer is the blindness of the Jewish people spoken of, but God is invoked so that he might "enlighten the hearts of the Jews"—a phrase which, in the opinion of many rabbis, continues to imply a desire for conversion, and which must, therefore, eventually beeliminated. This week, a delegation from Israel will arrive in the Vatican, to discuss ways to find a solution which is satisfactory to both sides.