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PRAYER-VATICAN (UPDATED) Apr-4-2008 (820 words) xxxi

Vatican: Revised prayer does not reverse Vatican II teaching on Jews

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's revised prayer for the Jews for use in the Tridentine-rite Good Friday liturgy does not indicate any form of stepping back from the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Vatican said.

"The Holy See wishes to reassure that the new formulation of the prayer, which modifies certain expressions of the 1962 Missal, in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews, which has evolved from the basis of the Second Vatican Council," said an April 4 statement from the Vatican press office.

In early February, the Vatican published Pope Benedict's revision of the Good Friday prayer, which is used only in the liturgy celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal, or Tridentine rite. The rite is no longer widely used by Catholics but may be used by some church communities under recently revised norms.

The new prayer removed language referring to the "blindness" of the Jews, but it prays that Jews will recognize Jesus, the savior, and that "all Israel may be saved."

The April 4 statement said some members of the Jewish community felt the new prayer was "not in harmony with the official declarations and statements of the Holy See regarding the Jewish people and their faith which have marked the progress of friendly relations between the Jews and the Catholic Church over the last 40 years."

In particular, some Jews, as well as some Catholics, felt the prayer contained an explicit call to attempt to convert Jews to Christianity.

In an article published in Germany in late March and scheduled for publication in the Vatican newspaper before April 15, Cardinal Walter Kasper said that on the basis of a long history of compulsory catechesis and forced conversion, "many Jews consider a mission to the Jews as a threat to their existence."

"The Catholic Church has no organized or institutionalized mission to the Jews," said the cardinal, who is president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

That statement of fact, he said, is backed up with a theological position in the revised 1962 prayer's second line: "Almighty and everlasting God, you who want all men to be saved and to reach the awareness of the truth, graciously grant that, as the full number of the Gentiles comes into your church, all Israel may be saved."

The second line echoes the teaching of St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans that God's promise of salvation to his chosen people has not been revoked and that once all the nations are gathered under Christ, the Jewish people will be saved, Cardinal Kasper said.

"So one can say: God will bring about the salvation of Israel in the end, not on the basis of a mission to the Jews, but on the basis of the mission to the Gentiles, when the fullness of the Gentiles has entered" into Christ, the cardinal wrote.

At the same time, Cardinal Kasper said, Christians do believe in the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ and no one should be surprised that Christians pray for the salvation of all people and that "tactfully and respectfully" they give witness to their faith in Jesus.

The Vatican's April 4 statement did not mention missionary activity or attempts to convert Jews.

Rather, it affirmed the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, particularly its recognition of "the unique bond with which the people of the New Testament is spiritually linked with the stock of Abraham," its condemnation of anti-Semitism as well as its promotion of "esteem, dialogue, love, solidarity and collaboration between Christians and Jews."

Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, told Catholic News Service April 4 that the Vatican statement was "an important clarification."

"I think it contains a very important implicit statement -- which I would have been happier to see made explicit -- that if one accepts (the Vatican II document) 'Nostra Aetate,' then they must demonstrate esteem for Judaism, which precludes proselytism," Rabbi Rosen said.

The rabbi said the April 4 statement does not contain all of the elements he had been told in early March would be included in a clarification from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state.

Rabbi Rosen said he still expects Cardinal Bertone's statement to be sent to members of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which had been promised the clarification.

A Vatican official said that by releasing the April 4 statement as a communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State, it made clear the fact that it reflects the official position of the Vatican and not simply the position of an individual cardinal.


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