Pope to change controversial prayer on Jews: report

VATICAN CITY Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:16am EST

Pope Benedict XVI holds his pastoral staff as he leads the Epiphany of the Lord Holy Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 6, 2008. The Pope has decided to modify a controversial prayer for the conversion of Jews, an Italian newspaper reported on Friday. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Pope Benedict XVI holds his pastoral staff as he leads the Epiphany of the Lord Holy Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 6, 2008. The Pope has decided to modify a controversial prayer for the conversion of Jews, an Italian newspaper reported on Friday.

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict has decided to modify a controversial prayer for the conversion of Jews, an Italian newspaper reported on Friday.

Il Giornale newspaper said this would involve at least the removal of a reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ but the changes could be more extensive.

A Vatican source said he expected changes to be announced before Good Friday on March 21 this year, but had no details. Good Friday is the day Christians commemorate Christ's death.

The Vatican had no official comment on the report.

Controversy arose last year when the Pope issued a decree allowing a wider use of the old-style Latin Mass and a missal, or prayer book, that was phased out after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.

The Good Friday prayer in Latin asks that God remove the "veil" from Jewish hearts so that they would recognize Jesus Christ and speaks of the "blindness" of the Jewish people.

Jews have called for a change in the Latin prayer which, if left as stands, would be used by several hundred thousand traditionalists who follow the old-style Latin rite.

The overwhelming number of the world's some 1.1 billion Catholics would use a post Second Vatican Council missal, which includes a Good Friday prayer for Jews but makes no reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ.

The strongest criticism to the Pope's decree has come from U.S. Jewish communities and there have been fears controversy could come up during the Pope's U.S. visit in late April.

Benedict's decree, issued on July 7, authorized wider use of the old Latin missal, a move which traditionalist Catholics had demanded for decades but which Jews and other Christian groups said could set back inter-religious dialogue.

Implementation of the decree has been difficult. The Pope's number two, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said recently the Vatican was preparing a document on how it should be introduced around the world.

Before the Second Vatican Council, Catholic mass and prayers were full of elaborate ritual led in Latin by a priest with his back to the congregation.

Many traditionalists missed the Latin rite's sense of mystery and the centuries-old Gregorian chant that went with it.

Some denounced Council reforms that included a repudiation of the notion of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death and urged dialogue with all other faiths.

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