Deleted Anti-semitic References Reappear in Catholic Prayer Book

Blatantly anti-Semitic references removed from Catholic prayers by Pope John XXIII in 1959 have reappeared in a Catholic prayer book published by Benedictine monks in the south of France.

The text calls on the faithful to “pray for the perfidious Jews, so that God would take off the veil covering their hearts and that they recognize Jesus Christ.”

It also says: “God, Thou who art merciful even to the perfidious Jews, answer the prayer we are addressing to Thee for this blind people. Let them be dragged away from their darkness.”

The Benedictines deny having printed an anti-Semitic prayer book.

“The term ‘perfidious Jews’ never had any aggressive or insulting intention toward the Jewish people,” said a spokesman for the monks.

“The words just mean ‘unbelievers,’ that is to say that they don’t have faith in Christ. It is a theological description and not a moral one. It is without any anti-Semitism.”

The Prayer for the Jews evolved from the Latin, which used the word “perfidies,” or “half-believers,” explained Eugene Fisher, director of Catholic-Jewish relations for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

The word evolved into “perfidious” by the 20th century, he said.

The monks of this monastery, located in Barraux, near Grenoble, were followers of the late Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, a schismatic Catholic who did not accept Vatican II and was excommunicated. The monks were excommunicated, too.

When Lefebvre died, said Fisher, the monks were allowed back on condition that they remain under the auspices of a mentor, retired Cardinal Paul Agustin Mayer, who is now living in Rome. They would be allowed to pray the Tridentate Mass, which existed at the time of Vatican Council II and did not undergo changes, said Fisher.

FRENCH CHURCH FAILS TO RESPOND

The monks “are not accurate to the Tridentate Mass that existed at the time of Vatican Council II,” said Fisher.

Vatican II, which met between 1962 and 1965, changed the Prayer for the Jews. The new text is: “For the Jews, 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.”

A spokesman for the French Catholic Church said that French church officials have no intention at this time of officially reacting to the monk’s prayer book.

“The bishops do not want to give any publicity to this publication,” said the spokesman.

But he said that “many bishops saw with great sadness the new edition of this missal, including sentences removed a long time ago.”

L’Amite, the Society for Friendship Between Christians and Jews, blasted the prayer book in a leading French magazine, Le Croix.

The French daily newspaper Le Monde called the publication of the prayer book symptomatic of “the state of complacency and blindness”, of the conservative circles within the government of the Catholic Church in Rome.

(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York contributed to this report.)

NEXT STORY