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The Revised Good Friday Prayer for the Jews

Pope Benedict Changes the Traditional Roman Missal

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In July 2007, when Pope Benedict XVI, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, restored the Traditional Latin Mass as one of the two approved forms of the Mass, there were rumors that he would also revise the "Solemn Prayers" that are prayed on Good Friday. These prayers are offered for the Church and all Catholics, then for non-Catholic Christians, then for the Jews, and finally for pagans.

While each prayer is different, the point is the same: to acknowledge that Jesus Christ, by His Death and Resurrection, is the salvation of all mankind. Therefore, the prayers ask that Catholics may be strengthened in their faith; that non-Catholic Christians may come to the fullness of the Catholic Faith; and that Jews and pagans may come to recognize Christ as their savior. In other words, the hope is that all will be saved through faith in Christ.

Most of those who desired the prayers to be changed wanted the prayer for the conversion of the Jews either dropped or changed in such a way that it no longer was a prayer for conversion. On Monday, February 4, 2008, the Secretary of State of the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict had indeed revised this prayer, and the revision is to be used in all future Good Friday celebrations that use the traditional missal, the Missale Romanum published in 1962.

The new text reads, in Latin (the language in which it will be prayed):

Oremus et pro Iudaeis. Ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum.

Oremus.
Flectamus genua.
Levate.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines salvi fiant et ad agnitionem veritatis veniant, concede propitius, ut plenitudine gentium in Ecclesiam Tuam intrante omnis Israel salvus fiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, on his indispensable blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" provides an English translation:

Let us also pray for the Jews: that our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.

Let us pray.
Let us kneel.
Arise.

Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Your Church, all Israel may be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The new prayer is drawn from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans (11:24-26):

For if thou wert cut out of the wild olive tree, which is natural to thee; and, contrary to nature, were grafted into the good olive tree; how much more shall they that are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

Obviously, the hope of some--that the new prayer would not be a prayer for conversion--was not met. That's not surprising: As the passage from St. Paul indicates, it is a point of Catholic doctrine that salvation comes through Christ alone, and therefore, Christian charity requires that we pray for the conversion of all. Indeed, it would have been wrong to change the prayer (as some wished) to suggest that Christ is the Savior of all mankind, except for the Jews. Such a change would have been objectively antisemitic, excluding from the possibility of salvation the very people from whom Christ descended.

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