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 CNS Story:

TRIDENTINE-ADL Jul-9-2007 (950 words) xxxi

ADL head calls pope's Tridentine Mass letter a 'theological setback'

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Meeting Vatican officials two days before the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic letter liberalizing use of the Tridentine Mass, the head of the Anti-Defamation League said he was assured that use of the old Mass would be limited and not offensive to Jews.

But after seeing the text, Abraham Foxman, U.S. director of the ADL, issued a statement July 6, the day before the letter was published, calling it "a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations."

In an interview with Catholic News Service in Rome, Foxman said, "I thought I had been heard, but I guess not."

Foxman said the fact that the phrase "perfidious Jews" was removed from the Good Friday liturgy by Pope John XXIII in 1959 and, therefore, does not appear in the 1962 text authorized by Pope Benedict is a good thing.

But the 1962 Good Friday liturgy does include a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, asking God to remove "the veil from their hearts" and help them overcome their "blindness."

The prayer says: "Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you do not refuse your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness."

Foxman told CNS, "They understand that 'perfidious' was offensive, but how is this any less offensive?"

The ADL director would not name the officials he met at the Vatican July 5, but he said, "They tried to downplay it; they said it (the Tridentine Mass) will not be widely used."

While he said he understood Pope Benedict's desire to "widen the tent" of the church by reaching out to Catholics attached to the Tridentine Mass, "I just do not understand what imperative there was to placate a conservative group contrary not only to 'Nostra Aetate' (the Second Vatican Council declaration explaining the church's relationship with the Jews), but also to the pontificate of Pope John Paul II."

"Nostra Aetate" and the late pope, he said, both recognized "the continuity of the covenant" God made with the Jewish people.

In a separate telephone interview with CNS in Jerusalem, Foxman said that the prayer is a part of a "history of teaching contempt" and a tradition of conversion by "expulsion, inquisition and burning at the stake."

"In general how Catholics pray and in what language they pray is not an issue for Jews, except when that prayer is offensive and insulting," said Foxman.

Noting that the Vatican has stated that Jews have their own path to salvation, Foxman said the actions and words of Pope John Paul showed that Judaism is a viable religion.

"Especially in the last 20 years, Pope John Paul II was very courageous to bring about reconciliation and repair 2,000 years of terrible history in terms of understanding Jews, calling Jews the elder brothers of Christianity," he said.

Foxman said he hoped Pope Benedict would be open to understanding Jewish objections and offer an amendment to the prayer as he did with Muslim opposition to his remarks in Regensburg, Germany, last year.

Though reaction to the pope's comments on Islam by some Muslims was violent, Foxman said violence was not the Jewish way.

"Our way is to ask questions and to think why is this happening," he said. "I hope he will rethink this. ... How do we now sit and dialogue when the other side believes we are blind and need to be converted?"

The Good Friday liturgy published after the Second Vatican Council still contains a special prayer for the Jewish people. It refers to the Jews as "the first to hear the word of God" and prays that "they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant."

Other Jewish leaders were divided in their reaction to the pope allowing greater use of the Tridentine Mass.

Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, noted that the Tridentine Mass already had been allowed by Pope John Paul and that Pope Benedict had only expanded its usage.

While with Pope John Paul, the issue almost "slipped through the cracks," it has gained the attention of Jewish groups now because of the higher profile it received within the church recently, said Rabbi Rosen.

He said the language of the pope's letter needed to be clarified whether it meant that "only a priest alone" could recite the controversial prayer or that not "even a priest alone" could recite it.

"I think (Jewish groups) are mistaken in their reading. Things will become clearer when we get a clarification in the next few days. We need a clarification and have asked for such," Rabbi Rosen told CNS.

Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, noted that he had read about the edict only in the press.

"Based on reports in the newspapers this appears to be a step backward. I think in discussions with our Catholic counterparts in dialogue the next few months, this will certainly be on our agenda, and we will be looking for clarifications and assurances that it is not what it appears to be as reported in the press," said Rabbi Kronish.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.


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