From: Reuters
Published March 21, 2008 11:51 AM

German Jewish leader criticizes Pope over prayer

BERLIN (Reuters) - The leader of Germany's Jewish community said on Friday she was surprised Pope Benedict could have allowed a new version of a Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Reuters Television she could not fathom Pope Benedict putting forward the new decree because he experienced discrimination against Jews in Germany as a young man.

"I would have assumed that this German pope, of all people, had got to know first hand the ostracizing of Jewry," she said. "I could not have imagined that this same German pope could now impose such phrases upon his church."

Jewish groups complained last year when the Pope issued a decree allowing wider use of the old-style Latin Mass and a missal, or prayer book, that was phased out after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.

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They protested against the re-introduction of the old prayer for conversion of the Jews and asked the Pope to change it.

The Vatican last month revised the contested Latin prayer used by a traditionalist minority on Good Friday, the day marking Jesus Christ's crucifixion, removing a reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ and deleting a phrase asking God to "remove the veil from their hearts."

Jews criticized the new version because it still says they should recognize Jesus Christ as the savior of all men. It asks that "all Israel may be saved" and Jews say it keeps an underlying call to conversion that they had wanted removed.

Knobloch said that she could not envision a continuation of the inter-religious dialogue as long as the old prayer stands.

"The inter-religious dialogue has suffered an enormous setback because of this version and I assume that one will find a way very soon to continue the dialogue, but at the moment I don't see it happening," she said.

"As long as the Catholic Church, that is to say Pope Benedict, does not return to the previous wording, I assume that there will not be any further dialogue in the form that we were able to have in the past," Knobloch said.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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