The Good Friday Prayer Controversy Continues

The Vatican is trying again to reassure Jewish groups, who are upset about a prayer included in an ancient Latin Mass that was revived last year by Pope Benedict. The prayer, recited during Good Friday services of Holy Week, called for the conversion of the Jews and , in the past, had been employed as an excuse for violence and discrimination against them.

The Vatican in February issued a new version of the prayer that removed some key words that Jews found particularly offensive in the earlier version, including a reference to what it called their "blindness" and the need to "remove the veil from their hearts."

But some Jewish groups say that doesn't go far enough. The Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Rabbis issued a unanimous resolution saying it was "dismayed and deeply disturbed" by the new prayer.

On Friday, the Vatican tried again, issuing a statement saying that it wanted to reassure Jews that the new formulation of the prayer "in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews "that has evolved from the Second Vatican Council. It said it sustains "the bonds of esteem, dialogue, love, solidarity and collaboration between Catholics and Jews."

But the Anti-Defamation League is still concerned. The reassurance is a "welcome step," said the Anti-Defamation League in a statement. But, said ADL national director Abraham Foxman, the statement still doesn't specifically say the Catholic church is opposed to proselytizing Jews.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently added two additional stops on Benedict's trip to the United States. In Washington, D.C., he will meet privately with the Jewish delegation after his session with 200 leaders of other faiths at the John Paul II Cultural Center on April 17. In New York the following day, he will make a brief stop at Manhattan's Park East Synagogue, whose leader, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, survived the Holocaust.

As National Catholic Reporter columnist John Allen has reported, Vatican spokesmen has repeatedly insisted that Benedict's revival of the old Latin Mass was never intended as a statement of Catholic/Jewish relations. Instead, it was meant to stimulate a stronger sense of traditional Catholic identity.

The Vatican's statement on Friday said that: "The Holy See hopes that the explanations made in this statement will help to clarify any misunderstanding," the statement said. "It reiterates the unwavering desire that the concrete progress made in mutual understanding and the growth in esteem between Jews and Christians will continue to develop."

The revised prayer says: "Let us also pray for the Jews. May the Lord Our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men."

By Jacqueline L. Salmon |  April 7, 2008; 9:32 AM ET
Previous: Benedict and Public Perception | Next: Servers at the Mass


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I consider myself an odd Catholic in that I actually admire the evengelization activity of Mormons for whom it is compulsory. Although I dont intend to convert to Mormonism, I believe they are sharing a fair percentage of the truth with persons who may not otherwise receive it.

If I were a grumpy catholic, I might view those Mormon activities with some disdain. So, I can attempt to see how a prayer handed down from the Catholic hierarchy regarding conversion of Jews might offend some Jews.

I even welcome the new wording of the new prayer. But even if the wording has a more positive, less negative connotation why would I as an individual see any merit in including it as a prayer worth practicing?

I think the answer is found in the fact that Jesus did not create a new religion from scratch. He described himself using accepted Jewish concepts/terms and in relation to traditional Jewish prophets. As a catholic, I can like it or not but God chose for Jesus's audience to be that of the Jews who lived over 2000 years ago. Just as he chose to speak to Jews through the prophets of thousands of years before that. That link isnt going anywhere and while I welcome prayers with less negative/insulting language, I'm afraid it's the type of prayer that's not going to be eliminated.

Posted by: | April 7, 2008 11:26 AM

Does anyone know how the prayer was worded during the Spanish Inquisition? That seemed to have been a very productive period of prosthelyzing.

Posted by: Cletus | April 7, 2008 9:07 PM

The Jews will never be satisfied.

Posted by: | April 7, 2008 9:29 PM

Posted by: Christopher | April 7, 2008 9:54 PM

"The Jews will never be satisfied."

So we should destroy them.

Posted by: Elian Gonzales | April 8, 2008 12:07 AM

Isn't there a pray said by Jewish rabbis along the lines: "thank God I was not born as a gentile"...

Do you see the Christians complaining about this?

I would have have someone pray for me than against me....

Go figure.

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 1:19 AM

What speed123 doesn't understand is that Christians praying "for" Jews in this way are actually praying against us. Such people want us to stop being Jews; they want to destroy the Jewish religion. And heaven knows they've done enough, during the history of the Tridentine Mass, to that end. It would be supremely irresponsible for the Pope or any Catholic to sugarcoat the hideous history of these words, or to pretend they don't drip with centuries of innocent blood.

Posted by: eye still turned east | April 8, 2008 2:38 AM

OK - eye still turned,

How would you like the prayer if it was changed to mirror the Jewish prayer?

"Praise be to God that I was not born Jewish"...

As for "dripping with centuries of innocent blood" - a bit much, don't you think. (unless you blame the holocaust on the Catholic Church as many conspiracy/anti-catholic minded people do)

There is blood on ALL hands in history - even Jewish - so a prayer for someone should be seen as a gesture of goodwill not a call to arms..

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 3:07 AM

OK - eye still turned,

How would you like the prayer if it was changed to mirror the Jewish prayer?

"Praise be to God that I was not born Jewish"...

As for "dripping with centuries of innocent blood" - a bit much, don't you think. (unless you blame the holocaust on the Catholic Church as many conspiracy/anti-catholic minded people do)

There is blood on ALL hands in history - even Jewish - so a prayer for someone should be seen as a gesture of goodwill not a call to arms..

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 3:07 AM

who cares about what jews think ,I am catholic and i'm getting sick of hearing the jews complian about my church ,like the world only revolves around them,listen you jews you are not the only race that suffered in the past,get over it, if I was the pope, I will tell go to hell.

Posted by: catholic for life | April 8, 2008 3:12 AM

"catholic for life" is obviously not Catholics and is attempting to stir hate on the forum - i.e. he is a troll.

As for my earlier post, let me clarify:

While it is antithetical to your faith to accept our prayers, it is antithetical to our faith give up such prayers for all mankind (but esp the Jewish people).

Catch22, eh? I say agree to disagree and move to the next subject...

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 3:24 AM

the jews will always complian about something ,what jews don't realize is that we christins allow them to think they are the choosen people , we the chrsitians defend you jews from your first cousins which happened to be the muslims.think about it.

Posted by: C4L | April 8, 2008 3:31 AM

speed123. be not a fraid

Posted by: | April 8, 2008 3:42 AM

It's not just Catholics that are supportive of converting Jews.
Jerry Falwell openly admitted that he supported the cause of Isreal specifically to convert Jews to hasten the return of Christ.

Posted by: CR | April 8, 2008 5:50 AM

The call to convert Jews (and other peoples) has been a bedrock of Christian theology for almost 2000 years. What the ADL thinks is irrelevant.

Posted by: MH | April 8, 2008 6:32 AM

This is not a prayer for the conversion of any old non-Christians. The Jains, Zoroastrians and followers of Shinto never get a mention. Nor is it to be said on any old day, but on Good Friday, the day that commemorates the Crucifixion -- an event which, not long ago, the Catholic Church blamed on the Jewish people, all of them, past and present. It was on Good Friday, after just such prayers, that Catholic preachers whipped up the mob to launch pogroms during the Middle Ages.

The Second Vatican Council, we heard, did away with the "blood guilt" doctrine. The present pope is obviously hostile to Vatican II reforms. He has already re-instituted the Latin mass. I don't think he wants to revive pogroms but you would have to be willfully ignorant not to wonder whether he isn't laying the groundwork for bringing back some form of "blood guilt."

That's why we're not "satisfied."

Posted by: cartographer | April 8, 2008 6:52 AM

As a Catholic w/ many Jewish relatives, I can safely say w/ experience that if people get over themselves and actually enlighten themselves about the other side of the fence, then there's absolutely no problem here. If Catholics rightly treat Jews as their fellow "brothers in God", if you will, and if Jews rightly accept the fact that the Church these days is a supporter of their people, then there's no reason to worry about proselytzing.

It's not like it's the 15th century Spain and Italy where even the royalty have a campaign to forcibly convert or expel the Jews.

Posted by: Comunista | April 8, 2008 7:22 AM

I think both the Jews & the Pope are raging idiots.

Posted by: Samuel | April 8, 2008 7:42 AM

First, the prayer "thank G-d I wasn't born a gentile is not responsible for hundred and thousands of murders in the name of a god of love. Second, to this day, many Jews are uncomfortable at Easter because the god of love demand blood on this holiday.

Posted by: Eidel | April 8, 2008 8:19 AM

Judging from many of the comments posted here, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept behind the prayer. It's important to understand that the Church prays for the Jews, and not against them. This is a crucial distinction, because to do the latter would devalue this prayer--or any other prayer wishing ill will on God's children--of sanctity. The Church, in other words, is not in the business of formulating maledictions. So what is the concept? Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another." For centuries before His coming, Jewish faith was primarily characterized as adherence to the laws, which was sufficient unto the development of human consciousness. The radicalism of Jesus' message lies in His understanding of the state of human self-awareness: you know, and you know you know. Therefore, know that it is love to which man must aspire, relying less on rote recitation and practice of the laws--which may, in fact, create a veil over the heart through which love cannot pass.

Posted by: El Cid | April 8, 2008 10:54 AM

This is new? I remember there always being a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of "our brothers in faith, the Jewish people". It came right after a prayer for Catholics and Protestants reconciling and before a prayer for the conversion of people of all other (non-Christian) faiths and finally a prayer for atheists to see the light. I can readily understand wanting to change the language to be more respectful, but I can't understand getting rid of the intent of the prayers which is for the conversion of everyone to Catholicism. That's pretty much the idea of any proselytizing religion, no? To convert everyone else to your own faith, which you believe is not only the truth but the best means of salvation. Perhaps we should also add a prayer to keep Catholics and those faithful to any religion from using their beliefs as a reason to harm others. I know we do that at other times but perhaps in that sequence of prayers on Good Friday would be a good reminder and might mitigate evident anxiety that we are out to revive pogroms and the Inquisition.

Posted by: cradle catholic | April 8, 2008 10:59 AM

"Perhaps we should also add a prayer to keep Catholics and those faithful to any religion from using their beliefs as a reason to harm others." That is not the primary function of the Mass, which utilizes the Liturgy to connect God to the communicant.

Moreover, the Church's prostelyzing is today guided by the principle that the Church proposes, but doesn't impose.

That said, I submit to you that such a prayer is already said in every Mass: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Posted by: El Cid | April 8, 2008 11:36 AM

I find it interesting that people are surprised that the Catholic church is out to convert and recruit just as much as the Christian denominations. Don't most if not all of the worlds religions preach that theirs is the truth and pray for the souls of those who do not yet believe their truth? While individual people should be tolerant of other religions. I think it is ridiculous to ask that an entire church change one of its fundamental beliefs, which involves preaching to and converting those who don't already believe. All religions aim to spread their reach around the world. Catholicism is no different.

Posted by: | April 8, 2008 12:01 PM

Eidel states: "Second, to this day, many Jews are uncomfortable at Easter because the god of love demand blood on this holiday."

This is a inflammatory and completely misguided statement. "The god of love demands blood on easter" wow! Your rabbi would be ashamed...

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 12:17 PM

We dont compose our prayers either to offend ,nor for censorship submittals to nonCatholics and they dont offer reciprocity.

Posted by: John Morrison | April 8, 2008 12:31 PM

If each of the great, and not so great, religions understood that theirs is not the only proper path . . .

Dream on. Ignorance and Madness.

Posted by: Lu Franklin | April 8, 2008 12:34 PM

I believe the Catholic Church should make no changes. As Christians we should stick with our values and traditions of our faith. No other religious group should dictate what is allowed to be said or not....even if they feel offended.

Posted by: | April 8, 2008 1:03 PM

13 million Russian civilians died during the Nazi invasion in the second World War. Do you hear them complaining every day about it? No.

Posted by: Ted | April 8, 2008 1:23 PM

As an atheist, I'm richly enjoying the spectacle here. Carry on...

Oh, and Ted, those dead Russians can't complain because they're, well, dead.

Posted by: Realist | April 8, 2008 2:06 PM

Oh, rational realist, don't think you are above the fray here.

It was your atheistic "faith in progress" that helped the Russians and Chinese governments of the 1930s-70s efficiently liquidate their population.

They did it very rationally and scientifically, by the way...

No need to be smug.

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 2:19 PM

It's simple really - OUTSIDERS DO NOT GET A VOTE. Don't like that Latin mass or the prayer well don't go. There is a reassertion of traditional Catholic identity and that can not be stopped. Enemies of the church, your typical Washington Post & New York Times readers included, are afraid of it. There is a tidal wave coming out of the seminaries - no more hippy dippy meaningless crap. For those that don't like it, too bad. Why don't you focus on praying your way in your house of worship as we will in ours? Fair enough friends?

Posted by: Constantine | April 8, 2008 2:30 PM

Wrong, Speed123.

I, personally have no "faith in progress" for any reasons whatsoever. I simply accept reality the way it is, without reliance on supernatural causes.

Yes, the Soviet and Maoist regimes were officially atheist, but were actually cults of personality for Lenin, Stalin and Mao -- secular religions. Nice try, though.

Any smugness I may have is nothing compared to the smugness of claiming to be God's Chosen People(tm) or The One True Church(r).

Posted by: Realist | April 8, 2008 2:30 PM

These comments miss the point of the specific relationship between Jews and Catholics. Many christian theologians [notably Michael McGarry] have made clear that the desire to convert Jews presupposes that Jews as Jews are not good enough for God. And, yes, this supposition did have a role to play in the coming of the Shoah. For Ratzinger, of all people, to forget what John Paul II realized is farcical at best, tragic at worst.

Posted by: HolocaustTeacher | April 8, 2008 2:39 PM

The above comment is directed to people of good will, of course, not to the surprising amount of anti-semites spending their time here.

Posted by: HolocaustTeacher | April 8, 2008 2:42 PM

Holocaust Teacher -

The Holy Father generously reworded the prayer but to ask him to delete it is an unacceptable interference in the Catholic liturgy.

Posted by: Constantine | April 8, 2008 2:48 PM

Saying, "Holocaustteacher", that the prayer for the Jewish is a contributing factor in the Nazi led holocaust is slander.

It is like saying the Jewish prayer giving thanks for note being born a gentile, as a contributing factor for the mass starvation of the Ukraine - by a Jewish (top general) led Bolshevik army...

Please think about your word associations here.

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 2:51 PM


Do you think I'm the only one saying these things? Try to find a reputable holocaust historian who says anything different.

It is hardly slander to say that the Christian [and therefore, for much of history, Catholic] history of antipathy toward Jews played an indispensable role in the worldview that eventually produced the holocaust. Was it sufficient? Certainly not, but it was indispensable, and JP2 got this, which is why he did all he did with the jewish community.

And your own associations are not only logically weak but morally enfeebled by their presumptions of an equal power relationship between jews and gentiles.

Posted by: HolocaustTeacher | April 8, 2008 3:07 PM


Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 3:25 PM

You are right, holocaustteach, evangelical Rev. Hagee (in Israel as we speak) also puts a great deal of blame on the Catholic Church for the holocaust, so you are in good company.

He also calls the CC the "mother wh*re of babaylon"...

As for power relationship between Christians and Jews - I would say that in modern times they are equal and most would agree.

So why try to shame and bully other faiths to acquiesce to your demands? It is the 21st century - time to find common ground.

If you can have a prayer that gives thanks for not being born a Christian (i.e. embracing your faith) , we can have one that prays for the enlightenment of all people (embracing our faith).

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 3:26 PM

PS - 700,000 Jewish men, women and children were hidden from the fascists by the Catholic Church in Italy (thousand were hidden IN the Vatican and were served kosher food whenever possible).

The chief Rabbi in Rome ended up converting due to the outpouring of help and humanity that he witnessed during the events of this time...

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 3:41 PM

"Let us also pray for the Jews. May the Lord Our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men."

This is a prayer asking for God to help the Jews acknowledge JC as their savior.

I am a Jew. If or when I should ever want to convert (and believe me, it won't happen now or when the alleged Four Horsemen make their ride), I'll let you know.

Until then, keep your religious beliefs to yourself, and I'll keep mine to myself. I thank god that we Jews DO NOT proselytize, because we RESPECT the rights of other religions, faiths, and denominations -- as individuals -- to believe in a way that is right and good for sustaining for them.

We Jews do not impose our beliefs on others, and I'll thank you not to impose yours on me, even if you think you know best.

Posted by: LRH | April 8, 2008 4:07 PM

speed123 as acatholic i m proud you for defending your your early comments
towards me .I don't hate anybody I m just sick of people always blaming the catholic church for their misery.

Posted by: catholic for life | April 8, 2008 4:15 PM


I think I misjudged you: you're not misguided. You're an anti-semite. You refuse to listen to a reasoned argument, you say ridiculous things, and I have nothing further to say to you.

Posted by: HolocaustTeacher | April 8, 2008 4:25 PM

One reason we Catholics pray specifically for the Jewish people on Good Friday is that we recognize our immeasurable debt to them.

If we believe that Christ is the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies, we must pray for everyone to discover him. But we have a particular bond with the Jewish people as the original recipients and keepers of these prophecies. Without them, we couldn't hope to recognize Jesus as our savior, so our specific prayer is rooted in our gratitude.

I've no doubt that it hasn't always been this way. I know many alleged Christians (and yes, Catholics) have persecuted Jews throughout history, well before the Holocaust. But the fact that some people grossly misuse a good thing (any good thing; in this case a prayer, a scripture) doesn't mean the good thing should be abolished. After all, there is no good thing that we humans have failed to pervert. Our entire life, it seems, serves to teach us to embrace God's desire for us to receive the good of every aspect of creation - and even our own existence - in its intended context, without misusing it to some self-centered purpose. So, too, the gift of prayer.

Finally, embracing Christ doesn't equate to rejecting Judaism. There are many thriving Messianic Jewish communities today, fully embracing their traditional Jewish faith, tradition, and rituals even while they accept Jesus as the promised Messiah.

Posted by: togo | April 8, 2008 4:29 PM


Right...the anti-semite typical of you.

I say that each group (Jews and Catholics) have to be faithful to their traditions and ideas yet you say that one tradition is "anti-semetic" when it is clearly not.

Does this make you anti-Catholic? Or just unreasonable.

I assume the latter.

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 4:55 PM

For a more more elegant and less polemic take on the subject read the great post by "togo" above.

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 5:11 PM

speed 123.... you good .I don't think you are anti smite.I think you are man of reason who loves his catholic faith that my freind is a gift.even though you called me "troll" what ever that are ok in my book .but I am a catholic and I m proud of being catholic

Posted by: catholic for life | April 8, 2008 6:06 PM

Most Christians belong to a church in order to have a church to stay away from, or so their subsequent track record of church involvement suggests. Most Jews do their bar or bat mitzvah in order "to have done it," and to be done with it, or so the track record of their subsequent involvement in temple would suggest. Funny that battle lines are drawn over a prayer by two traditions where so few actually pray.

Posted by: benzonah | April 8, 2008 6:11 PM

Hi C4L,

Thanks for the compliment; however, togo is really the star of this discussion with their last post.

A troll is someone who starts trouble on forums for the sake of argument. Sorry if I had you wrong, and even I lose my temper at times on here (see above).

Keep up the good fight (politely ;).

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 6:14 PM

This is a non-story the Post is whipping up to sell newpapers in an age when no one reads them anyways.

Anything with the word "Jewish" in it automatically becomes a story. zzzzzzz!

Posted by: Byron | April 8, 2008 6:43 PM

"Anything with the word "Jewish" in it automatically becomes a story. zzzzzzz!"

As if I care that the Pope is coming to town! It is all over the news, too.

As for the prayer, the issue is simple:

A religion that supported and encouraged anti-Semitism for so long (crusades, inquisition, and excommunicated every communist but never a nazi, nor the priest of radio marayja in poland today, or Charles Coughlin, The "Father" of Hate Radio) has no right to talk about judiasm. It seems so obvious. I suppose a prayer is better than what the church has done in the past, but really now...if you don't understand why jews are less than thrilled, pick up any good history book. Besides, looking for converts is more about getting more money and power--and convincing the flock that they know the "truth" so they can remain under the thumb--than actual caring or concern.

Posted by: really now | April 8, 2008 8:04 PM

realy now stop pulling the victim card on us, we getting sick of it

Posted by: catholic for life | April 8, 2008 9:47 PM

To those who refuse to acknowledge their innate anti_Semitism let me just make one comment before you whine about victims.


Posted by: Eidel | April 8, 2008 10:15 PM

So, let me get this straight--you can say you are "tired of the victim card"? Is that because you can't dispute that any of those things aren't true? Or you want to pretend to be a victim, too? Or is it because you want to be able to degrade someone else's religion, but can't bear the any hard truth about your own, or even the fact that you are doing that? Or would you be insulted if I called myself "jew for life"? You can cloak it any way you want, but it doesn't change.

Every religion has its heroes and villians, good passages and not so good. No exceptions--mine, or yours. Anyone can cherry-pick through history or life. One Edith Stein doesn't mean all Jews are waiting to be asked to convert. Sure the church helped hide some jews, and perhaps the documents that the church has kept secret for six decades prove that. A couple of dumb classmates asking me in the 1980s if my matzah had blood doesn't mean that all catholics are anti-semites.

But, overall, the history hasn't been good.

Posted by: really now | April 8, 2008 10:27 PM

Jesus, please protect me from your followers - especially Catholics, Mormons and American evangelical neochristians. Amen.

Posted by: Roy | April 8, 2008 10:32 PM

"To those who refuse to acknowledge their innate anti_Semitism let me just make one comment before you whine about victims.


Does "never again" apply to the 10 million mass-murdered Ukrainians (majority Christian) who were deliberately "collectivized" by the Jewish general Lazar Kaganovitch of the Red Army in 1932?

Yours was not the only "holocaust" and Jewish people are not always the victims...they can also be the aggressors.

Just ask the Ukrainians or Russians or Spanish killed before world war 2.

Might as well check with the Palestinians while you are at it.

History is a two-way street (blood on ALL sides) so if you want to call for the changing of our prayers, you might want to change some of yours as well...

Posted by: speed123 | April 8, 2008 11:32 PM

I guess the big picture is that we are all in this small, messy world together...we accept the gift that you are to this world but want to recruit you none-the-less.

PS - the prayer is said once a church, in LATIN - not broadcast from the capitol building or on blimps...

Posted by: speed123 | April 9, 2008 2:48 AM

Yes, there is a prayer, said mostly by Orthodox in the morning prayers (the conservative version is dumbed down a bit), to the effect that Blessed is God . . . who did not make me a Gentile. And there are a number of prayers in the daily service that foretell that all people of the world will come to worship God, presumably in the Jewish fashion.

Posted by: GG | April 9, 2008 3:30 AM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2008 The Washington Post Company