After two days of debate, the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement agreed on a resolution questioning the Vatican’s revision of the prayer recited on Good Friday that calls for the conversion of the Jews.
The assembly issued the declaration Tuesday night during its convention in Washington, D.C. The Jewish Standard reached out to several North Jersey rabbis attending the convention who weighed in on the resolution.
"It showed we were displeased and surprised," said Rabbi Ronald Roth of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel in Fair Lawn. "We don’t want to overreact, just show our displeasure."
The assembly took great strides to make sure its resolution was in the spirit of dialogue and not confrontation, according to some area rabbis.
"The attempt was to craft it in a way that carefully said we value the relationship that’s been established and we’re unhappy with what we understand what this is calling for," said Rabbi Randall Mark of Cong. Shomrei Torah in Wayne. "We’d like to see continued dialogue with people of both faiths."
The R.A.’s goal is to find out what Church officials were thinking in reinstituting the Latin Mass prayer and just how important a role this new version of the prayer plays, said Rabbi Arthur Weiner of the JCC of Paramus.
"What is going to be its influence on the many Catholic communities that don’t use the Tridentine mass? How is this consistent with the spirit of Nostra Aetate?" he asked.
The controversy centers around a 196′ Latin Mass prayer read on Good Friday called "For the Conversion of the Jews." It originally contained the verse: "Let us pray also for the Jews that Our Lord and God may enlighten their hearts, and they may acknowledge Jesus Christ as the savior of all men ."
Following Vatican II, Pope Paul VI revised the Good Friday prayer in 1970 to read: "Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the Word of God, that they may continue to grow in 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."
Pope Benedict XVI announced last year that he wanted to make the Latin Mass more accessible to traditionalists. Although he had agreed not to use the original prayer because of its references to the "blindness" of the Jews, he introduced a new version that includes a passage asking God to help Jews "acknowledge Jesus Christ as the savior."
According to its resolution, the R.A. "is dismayed and deeply disturbed" by the new language. It went on to request "clarification" from the Vatican of the meaning and status of the new text for the Latin liturgy.
"This resolution properly explains our concerns while maintaining a spirit of dialogue that has been a characteristic of the Church since Nostra Aetate came out 43 years ago," Weiner said.
The next step, the rabbis agreed, was to see how the Vatican responds.
"It’s not our responsibility to write the liturgy for the Catholic Church," Weiner said. "[W]e are not the constituency of the Church but we are in a positive relationship with the Church and we are making our concerns about these words known."