Jewish groups in the United States and Italy have welcomed the suggestion by a high Vatican official that a proposal to restore a Catholic prayer that is offensive to the Jewish community may be withdrawn. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said last week that a prayer in the recently revived Latin Mass for the conversion of Jews could be eliminated from the church’s liturgy. That would “solve all the problems,” Cardinal Bertone said, following a groundswell of Jewish criticism that questioned the efficacy of decades of Jewish-Catholic dialogue.
The Vatican’s earlier decision to restore the controversial part of the Latin Mass, seen as an outreach to Catholic traditionalists who were upset with the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, “is very puzzling to people who have been engaged in building the dialogue,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “We welcome” Cardinal Bertone’s announcement that the Vatican “could simply study” the substitution of another prayer, Foxman said. The controversy over the Latin Mass will not harm the Jewish relationship with the Catholic Chuch “if they move ahead and put it back to where it was,” Foxman said.
Cardinal Bertone indicated that the Vatican might study the possibility of replacing the prayer, which calls for the lifting of a “veil” from Jews who do not accept Christianity, with an alternative text.
“The declarations made by Cardinal Bertone clear away the fears that we and others expressed in recent days,” said Renzo Gattegna, head of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.
“By acting quickly and decisively to embrace the current form of the prayer to be used exclusively in all languages — including Latin — the Vatican could make it abundantly clear that no group that wishes to come back to the good graces of the Church will be welcome without leaving theologically based anti-Semitism behind,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.