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Impact on Interreligious Relations of the Wider Use of the Latin 1962 Catholic Missal


On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a motu proprio (a personal papal executive order) allowing the wider use of the "Latin Mass," in the form of the 1962 Roman Missal of Pope John XXIII. The details of this order may be found as follows:

The 1962 Roman Missal preceded the Second Vatican Council's promulgation of Nostra Aetate by three years. The Missal therefore reflects the attitudes toward other religions that prevailed before the revolution in interreligious relations launched by the conciliar declaration. Of particular concern are the prayers of the Easter Triduum, especially for Good Friday. This motu proprio, as issued, is ambiguous about the prayers of concern. It does explicilty prohibit priests from celebrating masses according to the 1962 missal during the Sacred Triduum, "in masses celebrated without the people" (2). However, while perhaps implied, it does not explicitly extend this restriction to masses celebrated in religious communities or parishes.

Why the Concern?

The Good Friday rite, for instance, while it does not contain the notorious phrase "the perfidious Jews" (which was removed by Pope John XXIII in 1959), does contain the following prayers:

1) For the unity of the Church.  Let us pray also for heretics and schismatics, that our Lord and God may save them from their errors and be pleased to recall them to our holy Mother the Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Let us pray:  Almighty and everlasting God, You save all men and will that none should be lost; look down on those who are deceived by the wiles of the devil, that with the evil of heresy removed from their hearts, the erring may repent and return to the unity of Your truth.  Through our Lord....

2) For the conversion of the Jews.  Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:  Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness.  Through the same our Lord...

3) For the conversion of pagans [Infidelium]:  Let us pray also for the pagans, that almighty God may take away iniquity from their hearts, so that they may forsake their idols and be converted to the living and true God and His only Son, Jesus Christ, our God and Lord.

Let us pray:  Almighty and everlasting God, You always demand not the death but the life of sinners; in Your goodness hear our prayer; free them from the worship of idols and unite them to Your holy Church for the praise and glory of Your name.  Through our Lord...

[with thanks to Prof. Maxwell Johnson of the University of Notre Dame for this quotation]

The second prayer's references to "even the Jews," "their darkness," and "blindness" and for their conversion runs counter to the respect for ongoing Jewish covenantal life throughout historic time that was expressed in Nostra Aetate, 4. The third prayer's description of infidels discourages the positive relationship with Islam called for by Nostra Aetate, 3 and repeatedly reiterated by Pope Benedict in the aftermath of his lecture at the University of Regensberg. Similar problems might be found elsewhere in the Missal simply because it was uninformed by subsequent developments in Catholic understanding.

Again, it is by no means clear what, if any, motu proprio might be issued about the use of the 1962 Latin text. Further information will be posted on this page as developments warrant.


Statement of the Discussion Group "Jews and Christians" of the Central Committee of German Catholics

The Disruption to Christian-Jewish Relations by the Re-establishment of the Tridentine Rite

[Unofficial translation]

On March 31, 2007 the Holy See?s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone confirmed rumors that the Pope would soon issue a motu proprio that would more generally allow priests to celebrate the preconciliar Mass of the Roman Missal of 1962. At the moment this is possible in a more restricted fashion only with express permission of the local bishop and by indult of the German bishops. At their 2006 autumn plenary assembly they determined that while one sometimes hears of an increasing interest in [the wider use of the Tridentine rite], this is not actually the case. There is no question of a general readmission of the preconciliar rite of celebration. Rather there is a reason to discuss the matters that stand "behind" this desire.

The discussion group "Jews and Christians" of the Central Committee of German Catholics, presently composed of 16 Catholics and 14 Jews, unanimously expressed the following serious objections against this prospect:

  1. The Missale Romanum of 1962 contains the Good Friday Intercession "for the conversion of the Jews" (pro conversione Iudaeorum). Although this rite no longer includes the denigrating descriptions of the Jews as acting "perfidiously" (perfidus) and/or as "perfidious" (perfidia), the Good Friday Intercession otherwise expresses the overall [demeaning] perspective of the text as it has been prayed in the Liturgy of Good Friday since the Middle Ages. The intercession speaks of the "blindness" (obcaecatio) of the Jewish people and says that the Jewish people walk "in darkness" (tenebrae). This contradicts in a striking way the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate, which states in chapter 4:

    Sounding the depths of the mystery which is the church, this sacred council remembers the spiritual ties which link the people of the new covenant to the stock of Abraham.  [...] the apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made. (see Romans 11,28-29; see Lumen Gentium 16). [...] the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy scripture. Consequently, all must take care, lest in catechizing or in preaching the word of God, they teach anything which is not in accord with the truth of the Gospel message or the spirit of Christ. 

To revive the 1962 Missal with the old Good Friday Intercession means the denial of a substantial theological paradigm change made by the Council: in fact, the biblically-justified new understanding of the relationship of the Church to Judaism with the accompanying change to Church's own self-understanding. The traditional Good Friday Intercession still beseeched categorically that the Jews would acknowledge "our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of truth." The post-conciliar revised version is more open: it recognizes the way of salvation of the Jews, founded upon God's design, even if it asks that the Jews may "arrive at the fullness of redemption."

  1. The pre-conciliar Roman Missal is also inseparably connected to the old lectionary. In its sequence of about 60 diverse formularies for the celebration of Mass for Sundays and holydays there is no reading from the Old Testament for each Sunday, except in only three cases: Isaiah 60:1-6 on the Feast of the Epiphany, Hosea 6:1-6 and Exodus 12:1-11 on Good Friday as well as 12 Old Testament readings in the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil, which were reduced during the re-organization of 1951/55 to four (Genesis 1; Exodus 14:24-15,1; Isaiah 4:2-6 and Deuteronomy 31:22-30). This is blatant Marcionism, which devalues the first part of the two-part Christian Bible - namely the Bible of Israel - to insignificance. With the rejection of Marcion, however, the Church already in the middle of the second century has said "Yes" to the Old Testament!

  2. The theology and spirituality of the Missa Tridentina, in particular regarding the doctrine of the Church, also contradicts much that was theological central to the Second Vatican Council. This concerns, not least, the unique relationship between the Church and Judaism (see Lumen Gentium, 16 and Nostra Aetate, 4).

The demand for the reinstatement of the Tridentine rite concerns such fundamental theological questions and is not really a question about the celebration of the Mass in Latin. This already is easily possible always and everywhere according to the post-conciliar Roman Missal (third edition, Rome 2002)!

It is clearly obvious what ensues with the reacceptance of the Tridentine Missal: a lasting disruption to the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue that began so hopefully at the Second Vatican Council. Many dedicated personal and also theological efforts on both sides would be intentionally damaged.

We hope that Pope Benedict XVI will not permit this injury to Christian-Jewish relations to occur.

Bonn, Easter/Pesach 2007

For the Discussion Group "Jews and Christians" of the Central Committee of German Catholics


American Jewish Committee Press Release

AJC Seeks Clarification on Latin Mass

July 9, 2007 - New York - The American Jewish Committee expresses its appreciation to Pope Benedict XVI for his confirmation that the positive changes of Vatican II will apply to his recent decision regarding the Latin Mass, which has been reinstated by the Church. 
"We acknowledge that the Church's liturgy is an internal Catholic matter and this motu proprio from Pope Benedict XVI is based on the permission given by John Paul II in 1988 and thus, on principle, is nothing new," said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC's international director of Interreligious Affairs. "However we are naturally concerned about how wider use of this Tridentine liturgy may impact upon how Jews are perceived and treated."

Pope Benedict XVI, in a decree issued on Saturday, authorized wider use of the traditional Latin Mass, which in some liturgy contains language offensive to Jews. 

"We appreciate that the motu proprio actually limits the use of the Latin Mass in the days prior to Easter, which addresses the reference in the Good Friday liturgy concerning the Jews," Rosen added. "However, it is still not clear that this qualification applies to all situations and we have called on the Vatican to contradict the negative implications that some in the Jewish community and beyond have drawn concerning the motu proprio."




 Rome, July 6, 2007...The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called the Vatican's inclusion of a prayer for the conversion of Jews in the Latin Mass "a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations, after 40 years of progress between the Church and the Jewish people." 

A papal order allowing the use of the 16th Century Tridentine Mass (Latin Mass) includes the prayer used in the Good Friday liturgy from the 1962 Missal, "For the conversion of the Jews.  Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us pray:  Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness."

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, in Rome for meetings with Vatican officials, issued the following statement:

We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday Mass, that it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted.  This is a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations.  It is the wrong decision at the wrong time. 

            It appears the Vatican has chosen to satisfy a right-wing faction in the Church that rejects change and reconciliation. 

ADL noted that in 1959, Pope John XXIII removed the term "perfidious Jews" from the controversial Good Friday Latin Mass.  In the 1970 Missal of Paul VI, which is currently used, the prayer for the conversion of Jews was replaced by a positive prayer recognizing the Jews' eternal covenant with God, a principle to which Pope John Paul II was deeply committed. 

To speak with an ADL expert on Catholic-Jewish relations contact  



The Pope's Liturgical Literalism

By Richard John Neuhaus

Monday, July 9, 2007, 6:35 AM

Neuhaus responds to the ADL press release, concluding that  "the ADL reaction is a mix of bellicosity and ignorance. The 1962 Missal does not say what Mr. Foxman says it says. And, if he had read Benedict?s apostolic letter before attacking it, he would know that it explicitly says that the Missal of 1970 will be used exclusively in the Triduum of Holy Week, which of course includes Good Friday."




  Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews

The communiqué below was issued by the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, by its secretary, Father Norbert Hofmann.

 The Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has received many enquiries over the last few weeks on how to interpret the ?Motu Proprio? Summorum Pontificium concerning the use of the 1962 Missal in the Roman Liturgy. Many expressed criticism or concern regarding the Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews, present in the Good Friday Liturgy. The Commission can only offer a provisional response.

As for the use of the 1962 Missal in private masses, it should be noted that no private mass is allowed during the ?Easter Triduum?. Therefore, according to article 2 of the ?Motu Proprio?, the use of problematic texts from the 1962 Missal does not arise.

The situation is different with regard to masses celebrated in communities under the jurisdiction of the Papal Commission ?Ecclesia Dei?, communities of institutes of consecrated life and the societies of apostolic life (cf. art. 3) or in masses in parishes as mentioned in art. 5, § 1. According to the information provided by ?Ecclesia Dei?, these communities have been using the 1962 Missal also for the Good Friday Liturgy and will continue to do so. Therefore, fundamentally, there is nothing new in this regard. Moreover, one should bear in mind that the wording ?perfidi Iudei? is not to be found in the texts of the 1962 Missal for the Good Friday Liturgy. The problem of the Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews requires further reflection. In this regard, it is expected that an adaptation of the 1962 Missal will be needed, and this could provide a way forward.

The Commission for the Religious Relations with the Jews is committed to the search for an appropriate solution.

It should be stressed that there is no intention whatsoever to change the contents of the teachings of Nostra aetate concerning the relations between the Church and the Jewish People.

Received and posted July 23, 2007