N GOOD FRIDAY, Catholics pray for numerous different groups during the SOLEMN COLLECTS. People used to think these prayers might be a vestige of the “Prayer of the Faithful,” but there are difficulties with that hypothesis. In any event, one of the prayers is for the conversion of the Jewish people. This prayer has been changed several times.
In the ancient form, no genuflection is made, nor is AMEN said:
The history behind not genuflecting here is deep and cannot be fully discussed in my short article. Part of the symbolism has to do with emphasizing how serious a thing it is to mock Jesus Christ. St. Matthew, who (like our Savior) had been a Jew, writes in Chapter 27:
Then the chief priest rent his garments, saying: “He hath blasphemed…” Then they spat in His face and buffeted him, saying: “Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck thee?”
The revisions of Pope Pius XII—some of which were optional in 1951 but all of which were mandatory beginning in 1955—no longer omit the genuflection:
The phrases “pérfidis Judǽis” and “Judáicam perfídiam” had caused confusion. That Latin word can mean “treacherous.” It can also mean “faithless.” Eugenio Zolli—formerly Chief Rabbi of Rome who became Catholic in 1945, choosing the name “Eugenio” in honor of Pius XII—asked Pius XII to eliminate this word from the prayer. Pius XII explained to Zolli that the correct translation in the Catholic liturgical context was “incredulous.” But Pope John XXIII did remove “pérfidis” in 1959: 1
That form—with genuflection but without “pérfidis”—was used in the Extraordinary Form until Pope Benedict replaced it with a prayer he composed. Here’s why Pope Benedict XVI made the change:
“A change also seemed necessary to me in the ancient liturgy. In fact, the formula was such as to truly wound the Jews, and it certainly did not express in a positive way the great, profound unity between Old and New Testament. For this reason, I thought that a modification was necessary in the ancient liturgy, in particular in reference to our relationship with our Jewish friends.”
Here’s how the Replacement Prayer by Pope Benedict XVI appears in the CAMPION MISSAL:
Very few people realize the prayer was changed again in the 1965 edition of the Missale Romanum:
Pope Paul VI changed the prayer again in 1970. Here’s the current English translation, which is almost identical to the former version by ICEL:
For the record, here’s the Replacement Prayer by Pope Benedict XVI:
Once we understand “pérfidis” as meaning “incredulous,” it’s difficult for me to see anything objectionable in the traditional prayer. After all, the Jews do not believe in Christ—that is to say, they LACK FAITH in Him. I suspect Benedict XVI, being German, felt a special sensitivity in this area, and felt called to go “above and beyond the call of duty” because of the evil acts done by Hitler against the Jews—but this is pure speculation on my part.
THE BISHOPS OF ENGLAND AND WALES recently complained about the B16 Prayer, asking that it be changed yet again. If you are concerned that Roman Catholic bishops are not in favor of prayers asking that a group of people come to accept Jesus Christ, you are right to be concerned. This is serious, and comes close to publicly renouncing Christ.
If someone knows the truth about Jesus Christ, it’s an act of love to share that truth with others. Leading others into falsehood—or encouraging others to continue to cling to something false—is never acceptable when it comes to serious issues. 2
Our culture looks at things differently. Consider the words of David Gregory, who’s Jewish. His exact words are: “She gave me the great gift of giving up—and sacrificing—her own faith…”
What a strange way to think of one’s faith; as if a believer renouncing Christ is a type of “gift.”
RESEARCHING THIS ARTICLE, I CAME ACROSS many absurd statements. Among them was an ill-considered statement by Fr. Anthony Ruff, which is troubling on various levels. For example, no serious person maintains that “we Westerners shouldn’t grant religious freedom to Moslems until every Muslim country grants full religious freedom to Christians.” More troubling are Fr. Ruff’s comments attempting to associate the Holocaust with a “Christian dominant culture,” which strike me as despicable.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Pope John XXIII even interrupted the ceremonies on Good Friday when the word “pérfidis” was added by mistake, asking that the prayer be read over again without that word.
2 At the end of the day, the best that ecumenism can hope for is honesty in dialogue, and the famous convert-priest, Fr. Leslie Rumble, summarizes the Roman Catholic position succinctly:
Almighty God gave the true religion to mankind gradually, so that men would be prepared by more simple doctrines for still more noble truths. Thus He sent Moses the lawgiver, and after him a series of prophets to explain the law and to predict the coming of the Messiah. Christ fulfilled these predictions and taught the perfect law of God. The religion known by the Jews before Christ was therefore but imperfect and preparatory. The religion of Christ was its perfect fulfillment, and the Jews should have recognized and accepted it. They did not, and then Christ sent his Apostles to preach it to the Gentiles. Christ did not therefore establish another religion. Christianity is the perfect development of the Jewish religion, just as the perfect tree is the perfect development of the seed from which it grew.
By the way, RADIO REPLIES is a marvelous series, and the entire collection is available online—but that website constantly crashes, so you have catch it on a good day.