Italian Jewish leaders voiced satisfaction after the Vatican Secretary of State said that a Catholic prayer for the conversion of Jews could be eliminated from the recently re-introduced Latin Mass.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, second only to the pope in the Vatican hierarchy, referred to recent polemics over the prayer on Wednesday, saying it could be removed and that this would “solve all the problems”.
Jewish organisations around the world expressed deep concern earlier this month when Benedict XVI brought back the Latin Mass which was largely abandoned by the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
They noted that the original Latin Mass contained a prayer referring to “perfidious” Jews and asking God to remove the “veil” from their hearts and to overcome the “blindness” of that people.
Benedict did not bring back this precise prayer but a later version introduced by Pope John XXIII in 1962. In this version the word ‘perfidious’ was removed but the text was still a prayer for the conversion of Jews and it still contained the words ‘veil’, ‘blindness’ and ‘darkness’ referring to Jews.
Cardinal Bertone said on Wednesday that “the problem can be studied and everyone can be told to use the formula of Paul VI”.
This third version, introduced by Pope Paul VI in 1970, is completely different from the earlier two. It asks for prayers that Jews, as the chosen people, “may arrive at the fullness of redemption”.
Benedict’s move to allow freer use of the Latin mass was seen by many analysts as aimed at healing a rift that arose in the Catholic Church after the traditional mass was replaced by a version in local languages.
But Jewish groups were quick to spot the impact of the move for Catholic-Jewish relations. Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, said on Thursday that Bertone’s statement was an admission that a problem existed.
The cardinal’s remarks confirm “the validity of our concerns about the possible return of a worrying prayer. I am happy that the cardinal has shown a willingness to face the problem,” he said.