In 1970, the Prayer for the Jews in the liturgy of Good Friday was revised so as to reflect and express the teaching on Judaism contained in the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate.
In particular it removed offensive references to the Jews and did not pray for the conversion of the Jews. This was in light of the fact that Nostra Aetate acknowledged the unique spiritual bond between Christians and Jews since it was the Jews who first heard the Word of God.
The 1970 Prayer, which is now used throughout the Church, is basically a prayer that the Jewish people would continue to grow in the love of God’s name and in faithfulness of his Covenant, a Covenant which – as St John Paul II made clear in 1980 – has not been revoked. By contrast the Prayer produced in 2008 for use in the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy reverted to being a prayer for the conversion of Jews to Christianity.
This caused great upset and confusion in the Jewish community since the Church seemed to be giving inconsistent messages.
The Bishops of England and Wales have now added their voice to that of German Bishops who have asked for the Prayer in the Extraordinary Form to be changed. Such a change would be important both for giving clarity and consistency to Catholic teaching and for helping to progress Catholic-Jewish dialogue.
Archbishop Kevin McDonald
Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations