Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pope Rewrites Prayer for Jews, But They Must Still "Acknowledge Jesus Christ"

The New York Times reports that yesterday Pope Benedict XVI issued a replacement for a prayer in the Latin version of the Good Friday ritual that referred to the "blindness" of the Jews and asked that God "may lift the veil from their hearts."

The move is signficant because it is at least an implicit admission that the pope should not have authorized more widespread use of the Latin ritual without first updating wording that conflicted with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which affirmed explicitly that the Jews have a unique and unsurpassable role in salvation history.

As observed in my January 15th posting on this topic, the admission increases pressure on Rome to revise additional Latin wording that conflicts with other official teachings of Vatican II.

However, the rewrite is deficient because the revised prayer still departs from the Vatican II position that God has a special relationship with the Jewish people which can never be abridged.

The unofficial translation of the new prayer reads: "Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men. Almighty and everlasting God, you who want all men to be saved and to reach the awareness of the truth, graciously grant that, with the fullness of peoples entering into your church, all Israel may be saved."

Rabbi David Rosen, who has worked with the pope for 20 years on Jewish-Catholic relations and is presently director of Inter-Religious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, says he is disappointed in the wording, especially because he knows for a fact that Benedict does care about Catholic-Jewish relations.

Quoting the Times: "Rabbi Rosen, while saying he was pleased that language he found offensive was removed, objected to the new prayer because it specified that Jews should find redemption specifically in Christ. He noted that the standard Mass, issued after the liberalizations of the Second Vatican Council, also contained a prayer for the Jews' 'redemption' but did not specifically invoke Christ, stressing rather God's original covenant with the Jews."

I agree with Rabbi Rosen. The wording so closely associates the salvation of the Jews with acknowledging Jesus Christ as savior and entering the Catholic Church that it seems to leave no room for Vatican II's teaching that the Jews are able to experience redemption on their own, within the covenant God offered them. Among other things, the teaching was designed to deligitimize any Christian basis for anti-semitism.

But this, of course, is the inevitable fruit of Benedict's larger positions that there is no salvation for anyone outside Jesus Christ and his one true church (Roman Catholicism). Those positions also contradict the clear teaching of the world's Catholic bishops at Vatican II, officially promulgated by Pope Paul VI. Benedict has yet to explain where he gets the authority to override that official teaching.

1 comment:

Gerald T Floyd said...

An article today from Catholic News Service has the complete text of the 1970 prayer which Rabbi Rosen prefers and which I believe is theologically consistent with Vatican II: "Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption."