At that time the congregants did not kneel during the prayer for the conversion of the Jews (even though moments of kneeling in silent prayer were prescribed for all of the other petitions in the Good Friday rite), because, it was said, the Church did not wish to imitate the Jews who mocked Christ before his crucifixion by kneeling before him and reviling him. However, the Russian-Jewish historian Solomon Lurie wrote (in his book on antisemitism in antiquity published in 1922) that this explanation was arbitrary and ad hoc invented: according to the Gospels, those were the Roman soldiers, not the Jews, who mocked Christ. Lurie quotes Kane who wrote that "all authors tried to justified the practice that had existed before them, not to introduce the new one. Apparently this practice (of not kneeling) had been established as a result of the populist antisemitism." (See p.7 in Solomon Lurie, Antisemitism v Drevnem Mire, in Russian, published by "Byloe", Petrograd, 1922.)
In 1960, Pope John XXIII removed the word "faithless" (perfidis) from the prayer for the conversion of the Jews. This word had caused much trouble in recent times because of misconceptions that the Latin perfidis was equivalent to "perfidious", giving birth to the view that the prayer accused the Jews of treachery (perfidy), though the word is more correctly translated as "faithless" or "unbelieving". Accordingly, the prayer was revised to read:
After the Second Vatican Council, the prayer was completely revised for the 1970 edition of the Roman Missal. Because of the possibility of a misinterpretation similar to that of the word "perfidis", the reference to the veil on the hearts of the Jews, which was based on , was removed. The 1973 ICEL English translation of the revised prayer is as follows:
An Anglican prayer ran like this:
However, no contemporary edition of the prayer book contains this prayer.
The Great Friday liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the expression "impious and law-breaking people", but the strongest expressions are in the Great Thursday liturgy, which includes the same chant, after the eleventh Gospel reading, but also speaks of "the swarm of deicides, the lawless people of the Jews", and, referring to "the gathering of the Jews", prays: "But give them, Lord, their requital, because they plotted against you in vain.
After having some time to study Summorum Pontificum and its implications, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the ADL, reiterated its previously-stated position. Foxman wrote, "The wider use of the Latin Mass will make it more difficult to implement the doctrines of Vatican II and Pope John Paul II, and could even set in motion retrograde forces within the church on the subject of the Jews, none of which are in the interest of either the church or the Jewish people." He goes on to reiterate that the problem lies with a prayer that calls for the conversion of the Jews that "was removed by Paul VI in 1970"
At the same time, Foxman emphasized that "the Vatican is not an enemy of the Jewish people, nor is Pope Benedict XVI." Rather, he wrote, "the current controversy speaks to the need for direct and honest communication based on the friendly relations that have evolved. The church must be true to itself and its teachings, and it must understand that reintroducing this prayer – it was removed by Paul VI in 1970 and replaced with a positive one recognizing the Jews' eternal covenant with God – will play into the hands of those who are against better relations between Jews and Catholics."
Although the 1962 version does not include this phrase deemed most offensive (Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis, popularly, although incorrectly, translated as "Let us also pray for the perfidious Jews." "Perfidis" is more accuratly translated as "not believing [in Christ]"), it is still criticized as a prayer that explicitly asks for the conversion of Jews to the Catholic Faith of Christ. Rabbi Michael Lerner said, the Pope took "a powerful step toward the re-introduction of the process of demeaning Jews. You cannot respect another religion if you teach that those who are part of it must convert to your own religion
A Catholic point of view expressed by Cardinal Avery Dulles is that the Church has a "God-given responsibility to proclaim Christ to all the world. Peter on Pentecost Sunday declared that the whole house of Israel should know for certain that Jesus is Lord and Messiah and that every one of his hearers should be baptized in Jesus’ name (). Paul spent much of his ministry proclaiming the Gospel to Jews throughout the diaspora. Distressed by their incredulity, he was prepared to wish himself accursed for the sake of their conversion ().
The tradition of praying for various groups and purposes dates back to the Early Church (). Catholics believe that on Good Friday in particular, they must acknowledge their common fallen nature, and that Jesus died for all (). Catholics have long prayed for many classes of people, both inside and outside the church: for the Church as a whole, for the Pope, for the Hierarchy and the People (regular and lay), for the Emperor, for Catechumens, for Various Needs, for Heretics, for Schismatics, for the Jews, and for Pagans, wishing that all be called to conversion in Christ.
For the forms that the prayer for the Jews has taken during the last hundred years, see under ''Alleged antisemitism'’, above. As pointed out by Dr. John Newton, the editor of Baronius Press, the prayer, in the form included in the 1962 Missal, for whose use the motu proprio gave greater freedom, draws heavily on 2 Corinthians, chapters 3 and 4. The invocation for God to "take the veil from their hearts" is a direct quote from , while later images of "blindness" and "light" are drawn from .
Given that, according to the rubrics of both the 1962 and the 1970 Missals, there can be only one celebration of the Good Friday liturgy in each church, the ordinary form of the Roman Rite (i.e. the post-1970 form, which omits the images of the veil and of blindness) is the one to be used almost everywhere. In practice, then, the 1962 wording can be used in only a very few parish churches.
14. Does the wider use of the extraordinary form of the rites of Holy Week reflect a change in the Church’s teaching on anti-Semitism ?
No. The 1962 Missale Romanum already reflected Blessed John XXIII’s revision of liturgical language often construed as anti-Semitic. In 1965, the watershed statement Nostra Aetate, of the Second Vatican Council then repudiated all forms of anti-Semitism as having no place within Christian life. When Pope Paul VI issued the Missale Romanum of 1969, the only prayer for the Jewish people in the Roman liturgy was completely revised for Good Friday to reflect a renewed understanding of the Jews as God’s chosen people, “first to hear the word of God.”
Throughout his papacy, John Paul II worked effectively to reconcile the Church with the Jewish people and to strengthen new bonds of friendship. In 1988, Pope John Paul II gave permission for the Mass to be celebrated according the Missale Romanum of 1962 only as a pastoral provision to assist Catholics who remained attached to the previous rites, thereby hoping to develop closer bonds with the family of the Church.
By this new Apostolic Letter, Pope Benedict XVI is merely extending such permission for wider pastoral application, but remains committed to “the need to overcome past prejudices, misunderstandings, indifference and the language of contempt and hostility [and to continue] the Jewish-Christian dialogue…to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed.” (Pope Benedict XVI, On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Nostra Aetate, October 27, 2005.)
On 6 February 2008, the Holy See's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published a note by the Vatican Secretariat of State, announcing that, with reference to the dispositions of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI had decided to amend the Good Friday prayer for the Jews contained in the Roman Missal of 1962, and decreeing that the amended text "must be used, beginning from the current year, in all celebrations of the Liturgy of Good Friday according to the aforementioned Missale Romanum".
The new prayer reads as follows:
Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. (Let us pray. Kneel. Rise.) 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 fulness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.