~Reuters via Sign On San Diego
Catholic and Jewish experts are concerned about relations between their faiths if Vatican plans to revive the old Latin mass include long-forgotten prayers for converting the Jews or roll back respect for their heritage.
Pope Benedict is due to announce soon a revival of the Latin mass, a concession to traditionalists who have long criticised the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) reforms that promoted mass in local languages and understanding with non-Catholics.
The problem is that the traditional texts include passages that say the Jews live in 'blindness' and 'darkness' and pray 'that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.'
The old liturgy, known as the Tridentine mass, also has none of the Vatican Council thinking that reversed long-standing anti-Jewish views in the Church and recast the Jews as what Pope John Paul liked to call the 'elder brothers' of Christians.
'It is obvious that a return of the Tridentine missal would cause a lasting disruption to the Catholic-Jewish dialogue that began so hopefully at the Second Vatican Council,' the 'Jews and Christians' discussion group of the Central Committee of German Catholics said in a declaration.
'We are concerned,' said Edward Kessler of the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations at Cambridge University in England. 'Are we getting back to negative stereotypes?'
In a statement on the issue, the Boston College Centre for Christian-Jewish Learning warned the old prayers could also offend Muslims, because they urge the conversion of 'infidels.'
The Second Vatican Council brought about a revolution in Catholic thinking, highlighting the ancient Jewish roots of Christianity, affirming God's love for the Jews and urging respect for and cooperation with other faiths.
Benedict has agreed to restore the Latin mass for the small groups of traditionalists who want it but his statement allowing this has been mysteriously held up for months.
Top Vatican officials have discussed the objections, a Church source in Rome said, but it was not clear whether the disputed prayers used in Good Friday services would be dropped or other changes added to show more respect for the Jews.
The National Catholic Reporter, a well-informed weekly based in Kansas City, reported on Friday that the Vatican had decided the issue already and no changes could be made now.
Kessler said Jews were concerned that 'neo-conservatives' in the Church wanted to roll back Vatican Council reforms that promoted inter-religious understanding.
He cited recent sermons by the main Vatican preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, which revived old charges about Jewish blame for the death of Jesus – views rejected by the Vatican Council – without provoking a reaction from Benedict or his aides.
The Church source denied that the return of the Latin mass would turn back the doctrinal clock. 'Vatican II theology is not being invalidated by this,' he said.
Kessler criticised what he called a drift in Vatican policy on Jews but said it was not reflected at lower levels in the Church. 'There are excellent relations at the pastoral level between churches and synagogues,' he said.