Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

February 11, 2008


Earlier this month, the Vatican promulgated a new translation of a prayer for the Jews to be included in the Good Friday service according to the 1962 Roman Missal. This is the pre-Vatican II Mass - the Tridentine Mass - that Benedict XVI has recently readmitted for use. Existing only in the Latin form, the prayer reads, "Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord our God illuminate their hearts so that they may recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all men..." (Note the retained patriarchal tone, "all men". But that is another issue!) Words deemed offensive to the Jews had been removed: "their blindness", the need to "remove the veil of their blindness". In 1959 the phrase "perfidious Jews" had been removed. Many Jews were not pleased, as the new translation called for their conversion to Jesus Christ. Many devotees of the Tridentine Mass protested the removal of the harsh words.

The present 1970 Roman Missal, following Vatican II, and now used universally worldwide, shows a deep sensitivity:

"Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the Word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to His covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption."

This sensitivity, much more alive today than in the past, is most welcome! A harsh example from the past: During his 1965 visit to New York, Pope Paul VI celebrated Mass in the Yankee Stadium. Local VIPs were appropriately accorded special treatment. As an archdiocesan official, I was host to US Senator Jacob Javits, his wife, and many of his friends and staff in special box seats. As we listened to the Mass readings, the words fell on our ears: "The disciples were gathered together in an upper room for fear of the Jews..." To say the least, I was embarrassed as I sat with this group of distinguished New York Jews. I wondered as to what were their thoughts. One of my colleagues here at our retirement residence was a litugical expert, who served on the reception committee for Paul VI. He was also a New Yorker, who knew his city as the home for the largest concentration of Jews in the world. He pleaded that a more appropriate reading might well be substituted. The papal staff members were unyeilding. That was the reading for the day! It would be proclaimed!

A welcome change in official attitudes has occurred. "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad therein."