March 20, 2008

Making Peace on Good Friday?

You might heard about the controversy which erupted between Jews and Catholics in the wake of Pope Benedict’s welcome restoration of the old Latin Mass to equal status with the post-Vatican II liturgy. In the old Mass, the Good Friday prayers included some pretty potent language as part of its prayer for the Jews. (The Church prays for everyone on this day, including non-Christians, atheists, and even politicians.) Jewish groups complained that renewing approval for the old rite would restore this language to use (albeit only in a few parishes and in Latin). In his usual spirit of mild-mannered, uncompromising orthodoxy, Pope Benedict issued a new prayer, which omits the offending language but still—you know… prays for the conversion of the Jews. That task was set the Church by Christ Himself, and no one—short of a committee of American bishops—could really think of renouncing it. For that matter, what would Jewish groups say if the Church explicitly excluded Jews, and forbade them to join? It’s kind of a no-win situation for the Church. Conversely, one can see why Jews (like any other group) resent attempts to evangelize them.

But there are signs of mutual understanding on the horizon. The excellent Rome-based news blog Chiesa Espresso features a calm dialog between a prominent Catholic theologian and an eloquent U.S. rabbi, Jacob Neusner. Check it out here.

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