British bishops call for revision of prayer calling for Jews to accept Jesus

Jewish groups laud move as signal of improved relations with Catholics

Evangelical Christians from around the world wave their national flags along with Israeli flags as they march in a parade in Jerusalem to mark the Feast of Tabernacles  (photo credit: JNS.ORG)
Evangelical Christians from around the world wave their national flags along with Israeli flags as they march in a parade in Jerusalem to mark the Feast of Tabernacles
(photo credit: JNS.ORG)
A call by the Bishops of England and Wales for the Catholic Church to amend a prayer calling for Jews to accept Jesus as their savior was greeted warmly by British Jews on Wednesday as a sign of just how far Catholic-Jewish relations have come in the last half century.
The Catholic Herald reported on Tuesday that the bishops appealed to Rome to change the prayer, which is recited on Good Friday, and reads “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.”
“The Catholic-Jewish relationship has changed immeasurably for the better since the Nostra Aetate declaration 50 years ago,” Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told The Jerusalem Post.
“We welcome moves, like this liturgical proposal, which embody the spirit of friendship and respect envisioned by that powerful statement.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, likewise, lauded the changed.
“This motion is a testament to the warm and ever improving relationship between the Catholic and Jewish communities here in the UK. I have discussed this matter with Cardinal Vincent Nichols during my recent conversations with him and I know how personally supportive he is of this change. In the current climate of religiously motivated extremism and violence, this message of brotherhood and tolerance is enormously valuable,” he said.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, an expert in Christian theology commended the Bishops’ Committee for recommending the change, calling it “a huge step forward in the ever-maturing relations between our two faiths.”
Last month marked 50 years since Pope Paul VI issued the Nostra Aetate, a declaration that revolutionized Jewish- Catholic relations. It stated that “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers” and absolved them from culpability in the death of Jesus.
Speaking with Jewish leaders in Rome at a gathering marking the document’s jubilee, Pope Francis said that since it was promulgated “indifference and opposition have turned into cooperation and goodwill. Enemies and strangers became friends and brothers.”
“Kudos to the British bishops for taking this up. It would indeed be a good sign of genuine respect for the integrity of Jewish faith and identity if the text were to be changed,” said former Irish Chief Rabbi David Rosen, who now serves as the International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee.
He said, however, that while the call is significant, the version of the prayer under discussion is one that “is recited by not even a percentile of Catholics, as opposed to the general text recited by 99 percent of Catholics, which does not make any reference to expectation that Jews will ultimately accept the Christian faith.”
The version referred to by the bishops had previously been revised to remove references to Jewish “blindness” and their “immersion in darkness.”
Another more commonly recited version of the prayer refers to the Jews as “the first to hear the word of God,” and calls upon Catholics to pray for them to “continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.”
“Such a change would be important both for giving clarity and consistency to Catholic teaching and for helping to progress Catholic- Jewish dialogue,” Archbishop Kevin McDonald was quoted by the Catholic Herald as saying.
He added that the current call comes on the heels of one issued by German Bishops.
Late last month, in another move that heartened Jewish leaders, the Polish church declared anti-Semitism a sin, a move described by Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich as “a clear and important declaration of moral and historic value not only for Poland but for Europe and beyond.”