The New York-based Anti-Defamation League on Thursday urged the world's Orthodox Christian leaders to support a Christian proposal to excise ancient anti-Semitic passages from their liturgy.
The move comes less than two months after a group of Orthodox priests issued a public declaration calling on the Orthodox Church to review its longstanding theology towards Jews and the State of Israel, and to remove anti-Semitic passages from its liturgy.
The 10-page priestly declaration, which was first reported in The Jerusalem Post, calls for the renunciation of replacement theology and the removal of anti-Semitic passages from Church liturgy - particularly in Easter services - and endorses the eternal connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
The dozen Orthodox priests who signed the declaration - some in open defiance of directives from their church leadership - are representative of five different Orthodox Churches, including the Russian, Greek, Ukrainian, Georgian and Ecumenical Orthodox Churches.
"We call on Orthodox Christian leaders to begin the process now to remove anti-Semitic passages from its liturgy," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, terming the effort "long overdue."
"Untold numbers of Jews have suffered throughout the centuries, and today, in some countries where these churches are prominent, Jews are confronted by growing anti-Semitism, because of the failure to address this," he added.
Unlike the Catholic and Protestant Churches, the Orthodox Church has never removed anti-Semitic passages from its liturgy, which still refers to Jews as Christ killers, said Dr. Dmitry Radyshevsky, director of the Jerusalem Summit, a conservative Israeli think tank.
He noted that the anti-Semitic passages were most conspicuous during Easter services, and included such statements as "the Jewish tribe which condemned you to crucifixion, repay them Oh Lord," - which is repeated half a dozen times during the liturgy - "Christ has risen but the Jewish seed has perished" as well as references to Jews as "God-killers."
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep, US director of public affairs for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Diaspora, said he supports the priests' campaign and considers it essential to the future of the Orthodox Church.
"The Church has not done enough to address anti-Semitism," Jesep said. "The liturgy must be modified so that it is brought closer to the teachings of Christ."