LONDON - Jewish leaders have welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's decision to reformulate the Catholic Church's traditional Good Friday prayers. The removal of references to the "darkness" and "blindness" of the Jews for their refusal to recognize Jesus as the messiah was a sign the pope was "deeply committed to advancing the relationship with the Jewish Community," Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, told The Jerusalem Post. The new text will drop all reference to the "blindness" of the Jews, Milan's Il Giornale newspaper reported on January 18. The pope has prepared a draft version of the new prayer, which will be released in time for Holy Week celebrations in March, the report said. In July, Benedict issued a "Motu Proprio" edict permitting the use of the 1962 Latin Tridentine missal during prayers. The Latin prayers for Good Friday ask Catholics to "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," and ask God not to "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." The move upset Jewish leaders, and prompted the Chief Rabbinate to write to the pope expressing their concern. Abraham H. Foxman, US director of the Anti-Defamation League, said then he was "extremely disappointed and deeply offended" by the reintroduction of "insulting anti-Jewish language" that would "now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words." "This is a theological setback in the religious life of Catholics and a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations," he said on July 6. Catholic leaders were quick to downplay the anti-Jewish aspects of the prayers, but added that the call for conversion would likely be retained. In a July 11 interview in Avvenire, an Italian-Catholic newspaper, Vatican official Archbishop Angelo Amato denied the Latin prayers were anti-Jewish. He said Catholics pray first "for our own conversion... And then we pray for the conversion of all Christians and of all non-Christians. The Gospel is for all." Rosen said the July edict had nothing to do with Jews, adding that there was some "confusion" surrounding the concept of "conversion." "Used in the sense that Archbishop Amato uses it, it does not mean the acceptance of the Christian Faith by a non-Christian," he said. Rosen said last week that his "sources" in the Vatican "indicate that the new text composed by Pope Benedict does not call for the Jew to accept the Christian faith but is in keeping with the 1970 prayer commonly used by the Church in the vernacular that prays for the physical and spiritual well being of the Jews." This pope has done more than just talk about improving relations between the two faiths, he said. "He invited many of us to his predecessor's funeral; to his own coronation; and he received our IJCIC [International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations] delegation before he even received Protestant groups, let alone groups from other faiths. All this is unprecedented." The Vatican would not confirm the Il Giornale report, and has declined comment.