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Pope Benedict Under Attack – Part II

by Christopher A. Ferrara

The controversy over the Pope’s revised solemn prayer for the conversion of the Jewish people, to be recited on Good Friday by those who adhere to the traditional Latin liturgy, continues.

First some background. The revised prayer for the Jews states: “May our God and Lord enlighten their hearts, so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, saviour of all men,” and, following the teaching of Saint Paul in Romans, Chapter 11, expresses the hope that “as (while) the fullness of the Gentiles [‘the nations’] enters (are entering) into Thy Church, may all Israel be saved (by entering the Church). Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

The whole new prayer in Latin reads as follows:

    Oremus et pro Judaeis
    Ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Jesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum.
    Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.
    Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines salvi fiant et ad agnitionem veritatis veniant, concede propitius, ut plenitudine gentium in Ecclesiam Tuam intrante omnis Israel salvus fiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Regarding the latter part of the prayer, it must be noted, as my colleague Brian McCall has pointed out, that the Latin text — the only one that matters, since the prayer is used only in the Latin Mass — employs the world intrante, which “is a present participle declined in the ablative of time which therefore translates ‘as’ or ‘while’ ‘they [the nations] are entering’ which clearly means that the prayer prays that Israel be saved through entering the Church at the same time as the gentiles are entering the Church…” That is, the view expressed by some Catholics that the prayer is “ambiguous” because it defers the conversion of the Jewish people until the end of time has no support whatsoever in the actual Latin text or, for that matter, in the teaching of Saint Paul.

In my previous column on the revised prayer (Fatima Perspective No. 557), I noted the lack of ambiguity in the revised prayer is precisely why Abe Foxman and his so-called B’Nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, the International Rabbinical Assembly and the Italian Rabbinical Assembly have all denounced the prayer as (to quote Foxman) a “departure from the teachings and actions of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and numerous authoritative Catholic documents, including Nostra Aetate.” What makes Foxman an authority on Catholic teaching is anybody’s guess, but in fact the teaching on the Church’s call for Jewish conversion — indeed, the conversion of every people on earth — has never changed.

As Foxman apparently does not understand, neither Popes nor ecumenical councils have any power to proclaim new teachings. As the First Vatican Council declared: “The Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.” The revised prayer — whether or not one agrees with the Pope’s decision to revise it — “faithfully expounds the revelation” reflected in the original prayer: that is, Christ’s call for the conversion of all peoples, including that people from which He himself is descended.

Now to the ongoing controversy. It appears that Foxman, the ADL and the International Rabbinical Assembly have just been joined by the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany, which has 1.6 million members in 46 countries and is the world's largest Jewish religious organization. Only days ago (February 25, 2008) a German periodical reported that the World Union’s representative, Walter Homolka, “has cancelled his participation in the Christian meeting in Osnabrück in May” because “The Catholic prayer for ‘enlightenment of the Jews,’ after the guilt [sic!] of the Catholic Church ‘in the history of their relationship with the Jews’ and most recently in the time of National Socialism, is ‘totally inappropriate’ and ‘should be rejected in the strongest terms.’” (Cathocon.org translation of German article entitled “Karfreitagsgebet für Juden-Bekehrung überschattet Katholikentag”).

Read those words very carefully: the representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism is suggesting that the Pope’s action be viewed in the context of Nazism! Such a suggestion is irresponsible and reprehensible. The man is clearly a rabid extremist. Homolka went on to say that “The relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community by these hostile acts stand at a testing time and at the lowest point for decades.” Hostile acts? The promulgation of a prayer for the salvation of the Jewish people is hostile to them? What sort of nonsense is this? Clearly, it is the sort of nonsense bred of the delusion that Paul VI and John Paul II “cancelled” the Church’s teaching on Jewish conversion, so that restoring that teaching would be perceived as a form of aggression.

We should be thankful, however, that more sensible Jewish commentators have recognized the right of the Catholic Church to promulgate her own prayers as she sees fit. One of these is Irwin Kula of The Jewish Daily Forward, who writes that “Jews should not be overreacting to Pope Benedict XVI’s revision of the Good Friday prayer calling for our people ‘to acknowledge Jesus Christ the Savior of all men’” and that “Jews should chill out rather than turn this into one more drama of how the world hates us.” (February 20, 2008) Sound advice indeed.

If even Jewish commentators like Kula are coming to the defense of the Pope in this controversy, there is no excuse for any Catholic to fail to defend the Pope for preaching widely the need for all peoples, including Jews, to convert and to enter the Catholic Church for their eternal salvation.

The EU is undoubtedly preparing to target orthodox Catholics for “hate crimes” prosecutions, which in fact have already begun. If we do not speak out widely and soon, the persecution of all Catholics might burst upon us. Silence now is not an option. I recall a verse about the consequences of remaining silent in such circumstances:

“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
“Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

It is our Catholic duty to support the Pope for proclaiming the Gospel message of the need for the Jews, and all peoples, to convert to the Christ in order to be saved.

The prediction of the persecution of the Holy Father is part and parcel of the Fatima Message, and we are witnessing that persecution right now over this issue (among others). Catholics who claim to take their faith seriously must pray for the Pope and, if they are able to do so, speak out in his defense on this matter. For, again, silence is not an option. The Pope must be defended, and defended now.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.