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Vatican issues clarification to soothe Jewish concerns

The Vatican expressed assurances that progress in Catholic-Jewish relations will not be set back by the restoration of the Latin Mass.

In a statement issued Friday by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the church did not promise to further amend the prayer, whose call for the conversion of the Jews prompted warnings of a severe setback in Jewish-Catholic Relations. Rather, it reads as an assurance that the “progress of friendly relations between the Jews and the Catholic Church over the last forty years” is not undermined by the prayer.

The communique says the unamended prayer of 1970, which does not directly speak of Jewish conversion, “continues to be in full use, and is the ordinary form of the prayer of Catholics.”

Last summer’s decision by the German-born Pope to bring back the Latin, or Tridentine, Mass – including its prayer that the Jews convert – has been widely characterized as a setback in Jewish-Catholic dialogue. Recently, Jewish leaders in Germany and Italy said they would cease that dialogue if the prayer remained as is.

The new explanation acknowledges Jewish concerns that the prayer “is not in harmony with the official declarations and statements of the Holy See.” But it insists that the new formulation “in no way intends
to indicate a change in the Catholic Church’s regard for the Jews which has evolved from the basis of the Second Vatican Council.”

Furthermore, the statement emphasizes the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the commitment of the Church to “firmly repudiat[e] any kind of anti-Semitism.”

The Vatican II Council, in 1965, adopted the “Nostra Aetate” declaration positing respect from the Church towards the Jewish faith. That declaration “continue[s] to sustain the bonds of esteem, dialogue, love, solidarity and collaboration between Catholics and Jews,” read today’s statement in part.

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