German Catholics and Jews are pushing the pope to withdraw his modified Good Friday Mass, which urges the conversion of Jews.
The General Rabbinical Council of Germany issued a statement Wednesday saying that the German-born Pope Benedict XVI’s decision has damaged Jewish-Catholic relations in Germany. The council expressed hope for “a satisfactory solution in the near future,” though observers admit the chances of influencing the pope are slim.
The statement followed an official protest on Feb. 29 of the Jewish-Christian Circle of the Central Committee of German Catholics, an independent group that includes rabbinical council president Rabbi Henry Brandt.
Separately, two prominent German Jews announced last week they would not attend Germany’s annual Catholic convention in May. Rabbi Walter Homolka, the rector of the Abraham Geiger Reform rabbinical college in Potsdam, and Micha Brumlik, a professor at the University of Frankfurt, said they wanted to draw attention to the issue.
Other rabbis – including Jonathan Magonet, the president of the Leo Baeck College in London – reportedly were asked to replace them as speakers at the convention but refused.
“It is very rare for a pope, for an infallible person, to renounce a decision because he had a bad day,” Homolka said in a telephone interview.
The protest has garnered attention in Rome. Homolka said Cardinal Waltar Kaspar, who heads the Vatican commission for religious relations with Jews, will address the issue publicly on Thursday, and again when Israeli rabbis visit Rome next week.
Chances of effecting change are slim, said Brandt, who will attend the Catholic convention. “One has to be a realist, but we have to work in that direction anyway.”