Benedict XVI on the Good Friday prayer for Jews

Peter Seewald


Sandro Magister has an English translation of some of the Holy Father’s book-interview with Peter Seewald, Light of the World.

Among the bits provided there is something about the Holy Father’s choice to change the bidding prayer for the Jews on Good Friday according to the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite.

Let’s see what Magister offers of the Pope speaking about Judaism with my emphases:

I must say that from the first day of my theological studies, the profound unity between the Old and New Testament, between the two parts of our Sacred Scripture, was somehow clear to me. I had realized that we could read the New Testament only together with what had preceded it, otherwise we would not understand it. Then naturally what happened in the Third Reich struck us as Germans, and drove us all the more to look at the people of Israel with humility, shame, and love.In my theological formation, these things were interwoven, and marked the pathway of my theological thought. So it was clear to me – and here again in absolute continuity with John Paul II – that in my proclamation of the Christian faith there had to be a central place for this new interweaving, with love and understanding, of Israel and the Church, based on respect for each one’s way of being and respective mission [. . .]

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. I modified it in such a way that it contained our faith, that Christ is salvation for all. That there do not exist two ways of salvation, and that therefore Christ is also the savior of the Jews, and not only of the pagans. But also in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united. For this reason, the arguments used polemically against me by a series of theologians are rash, and do not do justice to what was done.

We don’t pray “directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense” …

But that doesn’t mean we don’t pray for their conversion.


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  1. We of course pray for their conversion. As I pray for my own conversion from sin and growth in holiness.

  2. Craigmaddie says:

    We don’t pray “directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense” …

    But that doesn’t mean we don’t pray for their conversion.

    I don’t really understand the distinction at all.

    Fr Z, I think the Holy Father is saying exactly that – that we are not to vocally pray for the conversion of the Jews any more.

    Again, since this is a non-Magisterial statement of the Holy Father I beg to differ as it contradicts the Holy Scriptures and the call to repentance and conversion.

  3. Prof. Basto says:

    But why don’t we pray “directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense”?

    We want the conversion of the Jews also in a missionary sense, don’t we? Or are they to be left to take their chances at salvation without the Faith in the Redeemer, without the baptism into the one Church, a Baptism which is necessary unto eternal life; why should they be left without the graces ex opere operato provided by the Sacraments?

    While the “historical hour” when we shall all be corporately reunited does not come, why should generations of jews be ABANDONED by the Church? Why should the Church not ACTIVELY PRAY for their conversion IN OUR TIME, that the Holy Spirit might illuminate their hearts? We should pray for individual and collective conversions in a missionary sense!

    By saying that he avoided language that would pray directly for the conversion of the Jews, where does the Holy Father leave the Church’s commitment to her ad Gentes mission? If the Church is not willing to pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, does this mean that the Church thinks there shouldn’t be missionary activity directed towards the Jewish people?

    What about the Lord’s commandment: euntes ergo docete omnes Gentes, baptizantes eos in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti? Is the Lord’s Great Commission that the Gospel be taught to “all Nations”, and that all should be baptized in the name of the Triune God not applicable to the Jews?

    Does the Holy Father believe that the “historical hour” in which the Jewish people will massively convert, will be brought about otherwise than as a result of the Church’s missionary zeal? Will the miracle sideline the Church, or isn’t the Church’s missionary activity supposed to be the tool for that eschathological reunion? What about the generations of today? Don’t they matter too?

    This comment is worse than the condom comment.

    I end by quoting from a magisterial document of the Holy See signed by Joseph Ratzinger himself. Dominus Iesus:

    “Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”.77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.78

    The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”,79 since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God’s plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being.80 For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”;81 it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”.82 “

  4. danphunter1 says:

    “We don’t pray “directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense” …

    This seems to be a very confusing statement.

    What is the difference between praying for the conversion of the Jews, and praying for their conversion in “missionary sense”.
    Then what is the point of the prayers in the Good Friday liturgy, that still call for the conversion of the Jews?
    Should I not attempt to help my Jewish brethren by prayer and word to inform him of the Gospel message and the teaching of the Church?

  5. Geoffrey says:

    One more example of how brilliant the Most Holy Father is!

  6. mitch_wa says:


    I think what the Holy Father is trying to say is that we don’t have to convert them the way we have to convert an animist or a Buddhist (or even a Protestant or Muslim). People of the Jewish faith recognize the one true God, they worship him in a correct way, and their view of God is not one twisted from how God revealed himself to the prophets. Their view is simply an incomplete view. So we do not need to be missionaries to them, but instead invite them to the fullness of their own faith. We need to be missionaries to Protestants and Muslims because they have taken the truth revealed by God and twisted it to something other than what He revealed. So we shouldn’t pray for Jews in a missionary sense of converting them from a falsehood. Rather we should pray for them in a sense of converting them by realizing that they don’t need to wait for the Messiah but accept Him for he is come.
    It is the difference between converting a heretic/pagan and helping one who is a true friend and servant of God grow into the fullness of his own faith.

    At the core of what the HF said is this: We shouldn’t treat Jews like pagans when we pray for their conversion.

  7. Prof. Basto says:


    If the Pope is saying what you understand him to be saying then he is, or would be, espousing heresy.

    Jews do not worship God correctly. They too need to be converted. They do need to become Christians. They need to join the one Church. They need baptism just as the gentiles.

    That has been the constant teaching of the Church over the centuries, and it is rooted in Scripture.

    Furthermore, the age of the old convenant has passed; we are now in the age of the new and everlasting convenant, established by the price of Christ’s own blood. The rabbinic judaism of today is not the same as the religion of the old convenant before the establishment of the new. The veil of the Temple was ruptured when Christ died on the Cross!

    His Church is for all mankind, including the Jews. The Church is the New Israel, the new People of God, that embraces all nations, the entire human family, and that includes the jews.

  8. Jason Keener says:

    This part of the book is also going to cause immense confusion amongst the faithful and will provide yet another obstacle to the SSPX and other so-called Traditional Catholics. How can the Roman Pontiff, even in a non-magisterial book, now be indicating that we do not or should not be praying for the direct conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense? Even if there is a close connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament, which there certainly is, we should do all in our power to pray for the conversion of the Jewish People, so that they will come to the fullness of the True Faith.


    Jewish People do not, in fact, worship God in an objectively correct way. God Himself has revealed that after the Old Testament, He is to be worshipped through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as celebrated in the Catholic Church. Catholic worship is the only objectively true worship on Earth. According to your position, if Jews worship in the correct way, Catholics can then legitimately fulfill their obligations to worship God by attending services at a Jewish Synagogue. Is that what you are saying? I hope not.

  9. Jason Keener says:

    The second part of my last post should be addresed to MITCH_WA, not CRAIGMADDIE. My apologies.

  10. Joshua08 says:


    I think you are wrong on all and every account

    1. The Jews do not worship God any more correctly than protestants. In fact they do so less correctly.

    2. Their view of God is not without error. Until the Reform movement, and in Orthodox circles afterwards (Orthodox came AFTER the Reform not before) the Talmud is the centre of study. Now I know a lot of weird things get said about the Talmud. But it does have a distorted view of God and revelation (the story of Eliezer and how the law is not made in heaven, but on earth). Never mind the blank lines where the Jews obeyed Christian censures (but leave spots blank to remember) Nor that the Talmud comes from Babylon (the Palestinian Talmud is just an historical artifact, and the Talmud that is studied actually mocks Palestinian Jewry…)

    3. Let alone the mystical part of Jewish religion, the Kabbala and the things the like Zohar. They hold an emanationist view of God, which is repugnant to the truth.

    4. Further, again, modern Judaism (whether Reform [which came first in denominations], Hasidism, Litvaks [closest to traditional Ashkenazi Judaism, unlike what most people think], etc).

    Nevermind that many Jews (including rabbis) are atheists, agnostics and what have you. When people write as has been written above they betray utter ignorance of Judaism once the temple was destroyed. Nevermind that aside from the Kairites, which are extremely small, all Jews are descendants of Pharisees (though the re-imagine themselves as Babylonian, and we could get into the pride they hold over Sephardic blood, even though the majority now are Ashkenazim). It is incredibly anachronistic to see Jews as people of the OT. The Talmud is far more the centre in traditional Judaism and sects that, in a very modern way, try to be traditional (like the various and opposing types of Orthodox…). The move to the OT and publishing vernacular Jewish bibles was in imitation of the Christian culture in the 18th century onwards

    As a further note, with all due fealty to His Holiness, he shows his German-ess here. Or in other words, a disconnect from actual history. This idea that it is a new idea to read the OT in Christian context is ludicrous and without any basis in reality. It is a chimera of moderns. Your average medieval peasant was very familiar with OT history, genealogies, etc. They loved Chronicles. This idea that the stained class windows were their bible is quaint and quite silly. And further not only among the laity, but among theologians the OT was very important, as it has always been. The traditional prayer for the Jews was formed precisely at a time when knowledge of the OT was intimate to even peasants. Further, it is completely biblical in its language. One might as well accuse St. Paul of not showing the “continuity” of OT and NT.

  11. danphunter1 says:

    The current wording of the Good Friday prayers for the conversion of the Jews that the Holy Father wrote reads:

    “Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. (Let us pray. Kneel. Rise.) Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen”

    This is about as “missionary” a prayer for conversion as I have seen. The Church is beseeching in a public way, that Jews acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men”.
    If Christ is the only way to salvation for all men as this prayer states, then a conversion from any non-Trinitarian, non Christ centered, non Ecclesial, form of worship is absolutely needed for attaining glory outside of invincible ignorance, and missionary work is the antidote for invincible ignorance.

    I would think that St John chapter 6 vs 54, among many others, is reason enough for praying for the conversion of the Jews, “missionary” or otherwise.

  12. Prof. Basto says:

    Both the Novus Ordo prayer for the Jews and the 2008 prayer that replaced the old prayer in the usus antiquor are worthy of criticism and should be revised.

    – The Novus Ordo prayer is erroneous, fails to correspond to the Church’s lex credendi, in that it only prays for the Jews to grow in faithfulness to “their alliance”. It does not actually pray for the conversion of the Jews.

    The new prayer of the Usus Antiquor, while superior to the Novus Ordo prayer, is still deficient, because, while the old TLM prayer found in the original version of the 1962 Missal prayed for the conversion of the Jews in an immediate sense, the revised 2008 version only prays for their conversion in an escathological sense, it only prays for the massive reunion promissed by Scripture to take place in the context of the last times.

    I would also to add something to my previous reply to Mitch: the Church’s prayers in the original version of the 1962 Missal already recognized that the Jews were different from common pagans, animists, etc., and that the Jewish faith was superior to other non Christian Faiths. The jews had a parcel, a part of the Faith (the Old Testament), but their Faith is incomplete and they had their hearts closed to the Glory of Israel, Jesus Christ.

    The prayer of 1962 was already not the same as the 16th century prayer of the first edition of the Roman Missal published under St. Pius V, and the 1962 version needed no revision. And, if revised for style, it shouldn’t have been revised to replace a call for the conversion of the present generations of jews.

  13. Joseph says:

    I concur with some of the above comments. I love the Holy Father, but this remark is worse than the condome stuff. He must have had an “off” day. We are obviously not praying enough for him.

  14. Craigmaddie says:

    Jason, I think you’re attributing someone else’s comment to me.

    As someone whose great-great-great grandfather was a rabbi in Lithuania and as someone who is often identified as being visibly of Jewish ethnicity, I have been very shocked by some of the things that I have discovered are contained in the unexpurgated Talmud which has been restored in Israel. I recently read Jewish History, Jewish Religion by the Israeli professor Israel Shahak and it is quite clear that what we know as Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism is not the religion of the Old Testament but, rather, a man-made religion that grew in response to Christianity. Christianity is the religion of the Old Testament because in it the prophecies have found their fulfilment.

    With the Jewish enlightment (c. 1795) there was a move (with Conservative Judaism and then with Reform Judaism) back towards the Pentateuch and away from some of the more extreme positions of the Talmud. So, there are many variants of what we may call “Judaism”. However, with regard to Orthodox Judaism we are not encountered a religion that is awaiting the Gospel but, rather, one that has explicitly rejected the Gospel.

    I simply fail to understand how the words of the Holy Father are faithful to that of Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. We should pray for the conversion of the Jews – to do otherwise is a sin against true charity.

  15. 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.

    I do not wish to debate with the Pope, but consider the Scriptural source of the old prayer:

    Having therefore such hope, we use much confidence: And not as Moses put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel might not steadfastly look on the face of that which is made void. But their senses were made dull. For, until this present day, the selfsame veil, in the reading of the old testament, remaineth not taken away (because in Christ it is made void). But even until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. But when they shall be converted to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.

    It may be true that this does “not express in a positive way” the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, but it is a truthful relationship, and it is a necessary aspect of the complete relationship between the two. Furthermore, it explicitly expresses a desire for the conversion of Jews to the Lord: that is, an overcoming of the “negative” aspect of the relationship of the two Testaments and a reception of the “positive” aspect of their relationship.

    Both “contemporary” prayers for the Jews can be sorely misinterpreted in contradiction to the Sacred Scriptures.

    Surely Blessed Peter was not wrong to “[preach] directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense” on the day of Pentecost!

  16. JPManning says:

    Before St. Paul’s mission to the gentiles, wasn’t the church composed entirely of Jews? During his life on Earth Jesus preached only to the Jews. Therefore what he preached about baptism and conversion certainly applies to them. Jews belong in the church with all the other children of Adam. Surely it’s anti-semitic to think that of all the peoples of the world they should be separate from our family?

  17. I will interested to see more in the way of context and whether or not matters of translation are not at play.

    One basic question complicates this topic: Who are “the Jews” of whom the Holy Father is speaking? If we apply even a portion of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principals to the vast majority of Americans who self-identify as “Jewish,” it’s not them. The Holy Father is talking about faithful religious Jews; i.e. the Orthodox.

    It seems to me there are shades of meaning to be considered WRT to the words “conversion” and “mission.”

    We can (and should) pray for our own conversion. We can also pray for the conversion of an avowed atheist. Same word, different context and shades of meaning.

    The same can be said of missionary activity. One carries the Gospel to an “un-churched” superstitious tribe differently than to a community composed of faithful Jews who are trying with great effort to live their lives within the bounds of the Mosaic Law.

    So, long story short, I think… at least I hope that we may be looking at the limits of language and a lack of context here.

  18. Sid says:

    Before ANYONE WHOSOEVER attempts to fault the Holy Father on this matter or otherwise to talk with authority on Jewish-Catholic relations, he must first and foremost spend the day reading with care the most important Scripture on this question: Romans chapters 1-3 (esp. 3:1-2) and most importantly Romans chapters 9-11, where precisely the proper Jewish-Christian relations are taught. Holy Father himself clearly has read chapters 9-11 when he says that our prayer should be “that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united”. It is to this passage in St. Paul that Holy Father is referring.

    I plan to spend time today following my own advice. Then I’ll post again.

    In Acts 2: 14-36, to which the writebacker at 22 November 2010 at 12:18 pm refers, St Luke presents the view that Christianity is fulfilled Judaism and that Judaism is proto-Christianity. Proto-Christians need no missionary (in the sense that utter non-Christians do) or an exhortation to conversion (conversus = “turn around! You’re going the wrong way!”), but need instead an interpreter of a text of their own scriptures, as St. Luke does in this passage, to be able to see the full meaning of their own scripture, and then to come further on the right way, — the way which they are already on.

    Put differently, Christianity is realized Isaiahic Judaism.

    In passing: It is alarming to witness, as I have over the last three days, some writebackers who are putative friends of the MEF, on some blogs, attack the very man who made the MEF possible for most of them. Some gratitude. What Holy Father has said about condoms and the prayer for the Jews is clear, true, and beautiful. We ought to be supporting him and rejoicing.

  19. Jason Keener says:


    I apologize for the confusion. I meant to address MITCH_WA. Please note the clarification that I already made above.

  20. Prof. Basto says:

    @Jeffery Pynian – Surely Blessed Peter was not wrong to “[preach] directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense” on the day of Pentecost!

    Exactly. On the very day of Pentecost, when the Church’s founding was accomplished and finalized with the descent of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire, after those present had been marveled by the fact that the Apostles all spoke in the tongues of the different listeners, when they had calmed down in astonishment, St. Peter, now Pope, in his first act as head visible of the Church just then established, delivered his first sermon. And when Pope Blessed Peter had finished the Church’s first Sermon, the following dialogue took place, as reported in the Second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles:

    Peter ended his Speech adressing the Jews: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know most certainly, that God hath made both Lord and Christ, this same Jesus, whom you have crucified”.

    and this followed:

    “Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart, and said to Peter, and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? [38] But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. [39] For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call. [40] And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation. “

    So you see, that the call to conversion and to immediate baptism is a call addressed to the Jews too. St. Peter spoke of a missionary conversion, not only of an escathological conversion.

    Jews needed to save themselves from the spirit of the perverse generation that had rejected The Christ. And the call to their conversion is still as valid as ever!

  21. anna 6 says:

    Thank you for saying so eloquently what has been in my heart these past few days!
    Pope Benedict is recognized an extraordinary theologian, and the book was reviewed by the CDF prior to its release.The pope was not having a “bad day”. He is extremely thoughtful and is acting as a pastor.

  22. RichardR says:

    Either the Pope means what he says and says what he means or he is an old man, out of touch and can be ignored. (Or we can pick and chose the things we like.)

  23. TomG says:

    I’m with Anna. Sid has put it beautifully and well. And ARE we praying enough for our dear Holy Father?

  24. Jason Keener says:

    The quote below also appears to me to be a clear call by St. Peter for the Jews to convert to the True Faith. St. Peter did not speak about the connection of the Old and New Testaments in an overly-positive way, as Pope Benedict seems to be insisting on today as a better approach:

    “Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart, and said to Peter, and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? [38] But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. [39] For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call. [40] And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation. “

    Personally, I think it is a serious error for Catholics to speak so positively about any non-Catholic religion today. Even Protestants are in serious, serious error. Protestants only accept one or two sacraments. They fail to recognize a hierarchy in the Church. They have no valid priesthood. They fail to recognize the proper role of Mary and the saints. The list could go on and on. The Jews and the Muslims have even less right than the Protestants! The only true solution is to call Protestants, Jews, and Muslims to the True Faith by abandoning the many errors that they all hold.

    In the end, either the Jews need conversion to the True Faith or they do not. If they do need conversion to the True Faith, why would we not pray directly for that conversion in a missionary sense? To insist that we do not need to pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, it would seem that one would have to hold the apparently heretical position that the Old Covenant is still valid.

    Please note how Pope Pius XII spoke about the value of the Old Testament after Christ in “Mystici Corporis”:

    29. And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been ABOLISHED; then the Law of Christ together with its mysteries, enactments, institutions, and sacred rites was ratified for the whole world in the blood of Jesus Christ. For, while our Divine Savior was preaching in a restricted area – He was not sent but to the sheep that were lost of the House of Israel [30] – the Law and the Gospel were together in force; [31] but on the gibbet of His death Jesus MADE VOID the Law with its decrees [32] fastened the handwriting of the Old Testament to the Cross, [33] establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race.[34] “To such an extent, then,” says St. Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, “was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from the many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as Our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom.” [35]

    30. On the Cross then the Old Law DIED, soon to be buried and to be a bearer of death, [36] in order to give way to the New Testament of which Christ had chosen the Apostles as qualified ministers; [37] and although He had been constituted the Head of the whole human family in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, it is by the power of the Cross that our Savior exercises fully the office itself of Head of His Church. “For it was through His triumph on the Cross,” according to the teaching of the Angelic and Common Doctor, “that He won power and dominion over the gentiles”;[38] by that same victory He increased the immense treasure of graces, which, as He reigns in glory in heaven, He lavishes continually on His mortal members; it was by His blood shed on the Cross that God’s anger was averted and that all the heavenly gifts, especially the spiritual graces of the New and Eternal Testament, could then flow from the fountains of our Savior for the salvation of men, of the faithful above all; it was on the tree of the Cross, finally, that He entered into possession of His Church, that is, of all the members of His Mystical Body; for they would not have been untied to this Mystical Body through the waters of Baptism except by the salutary virtue of the Cross, by which they had been already brought under the complete sway of Christ.”

    Also, if the Old Testament is still to be viewed in such a positive light, why did Jesus Himself weep over Jerusalem and the failure of the Jews to recognize Him?

  25. Father S. says:

    This is an awful lot of dialog about a translation. Does anyone have the original text?

  26. samgr says:

    All I know is that I’m going to continue to pray for the repose of the souls of my Jewish ancestors. And the Lutheran ones, too. And even the odd Westphalian Calvinist that might have slipped in.

  27. QMJ says:

    “He must have had an “off” day.”

    I said it earlier this week and I’ll say it again: There have been other times when our Holy Father has said or done something that I did not understand. Each of these times has been an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our faith. I am having difficulty understanding exactly what he is meaning, but that doesn’t mean “he must have had an ‘off’ day.” He’s one of the greatest theologians alive and has been entrusted with the care of the Church, but if he says something I (mighty incredible I) don’t understand then he’s having an off day. I don’t think so. Once again, I think our Holy Father has just a little bit better of an understanding of the mysteries of our faith than those of us commenting here and, while we are free to disagree with him on this particular issue, he is also deserving of our trust.

  28. Titus says:

    Well, His Holiness says “in a missionary sense.” It seems that this phrase is important: a missionary takes the Gospel to someone who has not yet heard it. But the Jews have heard the Gospel, they simply chose not to accept it. Furthermore, the Gospel is of course the fulfillment of their own tradition, their own historical relationship with God. And so it would be possible for the Jews to accept the Gospel without the same type of evangelization that is necessary for pagans. Since this acceptance of Christ is the true fulfillment of the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants, it’s really the goal and end of Judaism. Now, whether such a spontaneous awakening and conversion of the Jews is likely, it is certainly possible, and is therefore something for which we can pray.

    I think, having looked back up the thread, that I agree with Sid, who made a very similar point. The Jews need assistance in completing their journey, not assistance in starting a new one.

  29. Prof. Basto says:

    Mr Keener,

    Thanks for quoting Pius XII Encyclical Mystici Corporis.

    That’s what the MAGISTERIUM says.

    All private opinions, including those expressed in private by a Pope, must be analyzed in light of the Magisterium of the Church and must conform to that Magisterium.

    A view that a missionary conversion was not necessary; only an escathological one, almost implies that for the present generations of jews, those generations that lived or are alive before the great “massive conversion” promissed by Scripture, adherence to the Old Law would suffice. That is not the case! From the moment of the establishment of the Church at Pentecost, all Jews are called to immediate conversion. That is missionary conversion, and not just a passive waiting for the escathological event.

    We have the promisse that a massive conversion of the sons of Israel will take place in the future; but that some future generation of Israelites will recognize Christ as Saviour en masse does not eliminate the need for conversions TODAY. A future promisse of a massive corporate reunion is not an excuse to abandon the present generations, who need also to convert, in individuals and in groups.

    Unless one shared the belief (erroneous and condemned by the magisterium) that the old convenant is still in force for the Jews so that by its merely observance they can attain salvation independently of the New and Everalasting Convenant.

    As Mystici Corporis officialy defines, the new and everlasting convenant in Christ’s blood ABROGATED the old convenant; and the rupture of the veil of the Temple was the sign of that abrogation and replacement of convenants. The Church is now the universal Sacrament of Salvation, and the entire human family is called to it.

  30. danphunter1 says:

    I believe it worthwhile to bear in mind that when the Holy Father speaks in such a context as a journalistic interview he is not speaking ex cathedra and not even precisely as Pope. He is speaking as a private person, as a theologian who happens to be also Pope. As such his words are, of course, deserving of respect, but his private theological opinions are no more binding than those of any other theologian.

  31. It is hard to understand what the Holy Father is stating here. Probably even more confusing than his condom comments.

    We do pray for the Jews; we recognize Christ as the only path of salvation, but we don’t pray for them in a missionary way? Do we pray for Muslims in a missionary way? Protestants? What is the Holy Father meaning by “missionary” in this context?

    There are more questions to each statement that comes out than answers received. I hope Jimmy Akin takes a look at this one too…it would definitely help us out!

  32. After a second reading of this, I feel as though the Holy Father is highlighting that the conversion of the Jews is not something of missionary concern as the conversion of Atheists, pagans, Muslims or even Protestants.

    -The missionary concern for atheists is plain: They don’t believe in God, so we must pray for them.
    -Pagans (of which I include the many occult and Eastern philosophies) is also plain.
    -Muslims, although we worship the same God, they reject Christ as the Savior, even though they recognize the reality of Jesus himself as man. So praying for the conversion of Muslims in a missionary way makes sense.
    -Protestants, because they have the fullness of revelation staring them in the eyes, and they are rejecting the Church because they don’t like “things the Church does/says.”

    But the Jews are in a predicament; they neither reject nor accept Christ. They don’t reject or accept because they do not see Christ as the Messiah. St. Thomas spoke of a “double darkness” in his “Prayer Before Study,” and that is SIN and IGNORANCE. This is the double darkness of the Jews. A refusal is one thing, but yet a genuine ability to not see is another.

    I don’t know…I am just trying to make sense of this.

  33. Prof. Basto says:

    Exactly, danphunter1.

    The problem is that, with those private opinions now revealled in mind, and not wanting to call for the (necessary) missionary conversion, the Pope, as Pope, decided to change the text of the Roman Missal of 1962 in its Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews, and in that disciplinary decision the Pope replaced the old prayer with one that emphasises the escathological conversion at the expense of the badly needed present conversion.

    Of course, even disciplinary decisions of the pope are not guarded by infallibility; the graces of state are related to the magisterium; to the munus docendi, not to the munus regendi in all its aspects. So the Pope can change a good prayer for a worse one in the 1962 Missal just like Pope Paul VI was able to change a good Missal for a worse one when the 1970 Missal was promulgated, and just as the Pope was capable of approving bad translations that de-emphacized in the Mass dogmatic aspects like its sacrificial nature.

    Neither private opinions, and not even papal disciplinary acts of non magisterial nature, are immune to criticism.

  34. Animadversor says:

    I think we have to consider here the exact context. The Holy Father is speaking specifically of the Good Friday prayers for the Jews and of the changes that He made thereto:

    I modified it in such a way that it contained our faith, that Christ is salvation for all. That there do not exist two ways of salvation, and that therefore Christ is also the savior of the Jews, and not only of the pagans. But also in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united.

    One has to take the words “also in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense” with the words “I modified it”; and so we can understand that He is speaking here specifically of the Good Friday prayers, and He is not saying that we should not at all “pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense.” As to why He felt that it would be good to change the prayers in this way I shall speculate that He did so precisely that Jews may be more readily converted. The Good Friday prayers for the Jews are certainly the most prominent prayers for the Children of Israel that the Church prays. If their perceived tone is such that Jews feel as though they are in someway being attacked or denigrated, if their perceived tone somehow brings to mind and makes lively for them the injustices that Christian have in the past committed against them on account of their unbelief in Jesu Christ, then they will stop listening, they will harden their hearts. A man whose heart has been hardened against your message will shut his ears against it as well. If you wish fruitfully to sow the seed of the Gospel, make sure that you have not somehow hardened the ground before you cast the seed.

  35. @Prof. Basto “As Mystici Corporis officialy defines, the new and everlasting convenant in Christ’s blood ABROGATED the old convenant; and the rupture of the veil of the Temple was the sign of that abrogation and replacement of convenants.”

    Not to downplay the Church’s Magisterium, but one need look no further than the epistles to the Hebrews to see this transition from the old covenant to the new inaugurated by Christ.

    [8:6] Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. [7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second.

    [8] For he finds fault with them when he says: “The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; [9] not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord. [10] This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [11] And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. [12] For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

    [13] In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.


    [9:15] He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. [16] For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. [17] For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

  36. Jason Keener says:


    The other possibility is that the Pope mentioned “not praying directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary style” because the Pope believes that God will achieve the conversion of the Jews in some mysterious way apart from the direct missionary task of the True Catholic Church, which would be quite odd. Why would God not want Catholics to work at directly bringing Jews into the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church? It is uncharitable to not pray for the direct conversion of the Jews. They need Christ and the sacraments as much as anyone else.

    It seems the other possibility is that the Pope overestimates the status of the relationship between God and the Jewish People at this point in time and that the Pope does not feel the Jews are in an urgent need of conversion because of their position as the “Chosen People.” That position would also appear to be odd considering the long-standing practice of the Church to pray for the conversion of the Jews and the words of Christ Who said, “If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you.” I agree that God still has a special concern for the Chosen People and that God has not abandoned the Jews, for God loves everyone. I do not believe, however, that the Jewish Covenant is salvific or that Catholics should delay our attemtps to convert the Jewish People one second longer.

    Unfortunately, this whole episode is illustrative of how confusing the Church’s message can seem in the Vatican II and post-Vatican II era. In one line of the Pope’s comments, he says something perfectly orthodox about Christ being the only way to salvation. Then, a few lines later, something apparently unorthodox (or at least strange) is offered in that we do not now pray directly for the Jews in a missionary sense.

  37. Sid says:

    I thank Titus at 22 November 2010 at 2:11 pm for correctly grasping the purport of my post at 22 November 2010 at 12:59 pm. The posts at 22 November 2010 at 1:05 pm & 22 November 2010 at 1:52 pm have not be as discerning as Titus of either what I wrote or what St. Luke says in Acts 2.

    For the latter two writebackers have quoted St. Peter’s peroration and have ignored the main body of his sermon: both his argument and his exegetical method in verses 16-36. The whole sermon is a kind of Christian midrash — as are all the other Apostolic sermons in Acts save St. Paul’s sermon in Athens, when he was speaking to non-Jews and pagan philosophers. To focus on 16-36, Peter (and Luke) simply opens the Tanakh and demonstrates by the very words of the Tanakh that Christianity is Judaism, realized Judaism, and Judaism is Christianity en embryo; and that the Jews need no complex missionary effort, but rather simply need to come to the full meaning of their scripture. The first pope indeed removes the veil to show what the Tanakh really means.

    Luke-Acts (really one work) consistently has The Apostles, St. Stephen, St. Philip the Deacon to the Ethiopian eunuch, and Our Lord Himself do just such a Christian midrash on the Tanakh (e.g., Luke 24: 13-35, esp. vv. 25-27 and 32).

    I will not be drawn into an attempt to play off St. Paul against Pius XII. Equally fatuous (and un-scriptural) is to say the Old Covenant is exclusively Jewish and the New exclusively Christian. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (Jews of good standing) all call for and foretell the New Covenant; the very phrase is theirs. So that very New Covenant is also Judaism en embryo. The Letter to the Hebrews is really its own Christian midrash on the P Document of the Pentateuch, specifically from Exodus 25 until the end of Leviticus, with special emphasis on Leviticus 16.

    I repeat: Christianity is realized Isaiahic Judaism; or, if I may use the phrase of a wise man, there is a hermeneutic of continuity that makes the Old Testament and the New, the Old Covenant and the New, and Judaism & Christianity one. St. Peter in Acts, St. Paul, and the writer of Hebrews are practitioners of this hermeneutic of continuity.

    I’m eager to get to a discussion of Romans chapters 1-3:20 & chapter 9-11, the really more important texts for the relation of Jews and Christians, and the passage that Holy Father eludes to in his statement which Fr. Z quotes. I’ll wait a while.

  38. moon1234 says:

    Wow, where to begin:

    Muslims, although we worship the same God
    Muslims and Catholics do NOT worship the same god. God is three persons in one divine nature. Muslims deny this. Hence they DO NOT worship the same God. The same goes for the Jews and all other non-christians.

    JESUS Said: (John 14:6)
    Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me. [7] If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father also: and from henceforth you shall know him, and you have seen him. [8] Philip saith to him: Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us. [9] Jesus saith to him: Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known me? Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, shew us the Father? [10] Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. But the Father who abideth in me, he doth the works.

    Jesus DIRECTLY told us that NO ONE gets to the Father EXCEPT thru him. So there is NO WAY for the Jews to get to the Father (as in the old testament) EXCEPT thru Jesus.

    All of this talk about the special status of todays Jews is nonsense. The only Jews that had a special status were those alive when Jesus was alive. Once Christ established the Catholic church ALL future Jews (And all humans) are REQUIRED to join the Catholic church. The prayer for the Jews in the 1962 missal recognizes the PAST special status of TODAY’s Jews. The Jews of Jesus time survive today in the Catholic Church. WE are the TRUE successors of the Jews of Jesus’ time.

    From the 1955 missal (the prayer centuries old at this time):
    Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us pray. Let us kneel. [pause for silent prayer] Arise. Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Here we see that we are praying for MODERN jews who, quite properly, are faithless. Remember Jesus words: “No one can get to the Father except through me”. That the veil may be lifted from their eyes. The prayer recognizes that their PAST status as the chosen people (Catholics are the modern chosen people in direct line of the jews of Jesus’ time) is gone and we pray that this veil covering their eyes may be lifted.

    The 1955 prayer is a beautiful demonstration of all those assembled praying that those MODERN people clinging to Judaism have their blidness removed so that they may IMMEDIATLY join the Church. This is not some call for acknowledgement at the end of time. It is a call to ALL living Jews to acknowledge Christ and join the Church immediatly.

    The reason we have so many problems today is from the errors that have crept in due to modernism. VII, with Nostra Aetate, the elimination of the word perfidious (meaning unbelieving), the complete revision of the prayer in the NO to have virtually none of the original meaning, etc. All of these are ERRORS.

    I would have to agree that I think the changes in the 1962 missal are poorly chosen. They new words don’t convey the meaning that the original prayer does, namely that we are to call directly for the immediate conversion of the modern Jews to Christ.

    Lex orandi, Lex credendi.

  39. dominic1955 says:

    The Old Testament is ours in that Catholicism is the religion of the Old Testament realized. The Jews who existed back then could have been said to be part of the Old Testament “Church” however, the same cannot be said about those who call themselves Jews today. The Jewish religion(s) of today are not the same religion of the Old Testament because the only ones who continue to practice what God has put into place is, of course, us. Jews need to become Catholics just as bad as anyone else who is not Catholic. The Jews are in need of conversion to Catholicism because what is called “Judaism” is just another false religion. We need missionary efforts to convert Protestants and they have even more of the Truth than Jews do. Extra eclessia nulla salus, after all.

    Of course there is a huge connection between the OT and NT-the Fathers knew that hundreds of years ago. However, the kicker is that there is really no connection between the modern Jews and the OT people of Israel. The Church is God’s People, the New Jerusalem. A Jew, just like everyone else, needs baptism to truly be part of the people of God.

  40. Animadversor says:

    Dear Mr. Keener,
    You write

    In one line of the Pope’s comments, he says something perfectly orthodox about Christ being the only way to salvation. Then, a few lines later, something apparently unorthodox (or at least strange) is offered in that we do not now pray directly for the Jews in a missionary sense.

    I should point out that the Holy Father does not use the word “now” that you use in the text of yours quoted above and attribute to Him. I do think that it would be strange if the Holy Father had meant that now we never pray directly for the Jews in a missionary sense. I cannot believe that if the question were asked of Him, “Ought Christians ever to pray directly for the conversion of Jews, including by missionary efforts that have Jews specifically in mind?” that He would not say, “Yes, and daily.” But I am here putting words in the Pope’s mouth. Still, I believe that He would assent to that. I should like to re-emphasize my point that when He said “in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense” that He was referring only to the Good Friday prayers, as seems plain from the structure of the text. I think that understood in this way, there is no apparent inconsistency with Christian orthodoxy or good practice. We we aim to bring someone to belief in the gospel, or encourage them to reform of their lives, we ought always to consider whether our actions are likely to lead to their putative charitable ends, and this means trying to see these actions from the point of view of the other person. Otherwise we run the risk that our actions serve only to make us feel pleased with ourselves.

  41. Jason Keener says:


    I pretty much agree with your analysis. At one time, the Church’s official prayer considered the Jews to be “faithless,” which I totally agree with. How can a Jew be said to have faith when a person who practices Judaism outright rejects God’s saving plan in Christ? It indeed seems to be pure nonsense to insist that Jews can reject the Father’s plan for salvation as revealed in Christ and at the same time be in good standing with the Father. Moreover, we can see how upset Jesus was at the refusal of the Jews to accept Him. Jesus did not say, “It’s all ok. You are still the Chosen People and in good standing with God.” Instead, Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

    Also, I wish the Church would drop all of these novel attempts of the Vatican II era to constantly find the so-called good in non-Catholic religions to the point of absolute absurdity. A better approach would be for the Catholic Church to again pull out the old Apologetics Manuals and start preaching why our separated brothers are in error, why the Catholic Church is the True Church, and why non-Catholics should immediately convert to the True Religion. If people refuse to convert, at least we cannot be blamed for failing to share the truth with them. How many non-Catholics today are confirmed in their errors not only by their own teachers but by the Catholic Church Herself?

  42. Jason Keener says:

    Hi, Animadversor.

    I have several points:

    1. It is true that the Pope did not use the word “now” in his statement; however, I can infer that the Pope must believe that it is now not appropriate for Catholics to pray directly for the conversion of Jewish People in a missionary sense, at least in the Good Friday prayers.

    2. It seems very clear that in re-formulating the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, the Pope wanted to avoid the impression that Catholics are praying directly for the Jews in a missionary sense. Why would the Pope make such a statement, even if only in regards to the Good Friday Prayer? For centuries, in the Good Friday Liturgy, Catholics prayed that God would remove the veil from the hearts of the faithless Jews. Was the former practice wrong? Are the Jews no longer faithless? Do the Jews no longer have a veil over their hearts? Or, has the Church become so ecumenically-absurd and politically-correct that we cannot speak openly about the truth of the Jewish People and their faithlessness even in our own Catholic prayers?

    Do you see all of the confusion such a statement creates and why Church leaders should return to a clearer and more direct method of speaking as was the practice of the Church in the pre-Vatican II era?

  43. kat says:


    How many Jews attend(ed) Good Friday services, hearing the prayers being said for them, and hence “hardened their hearts” against any more being said? I’m just curious. After all, I would have absolutely no idea if the Jews “pray for our conversion” away from the Catholic Faith. Unless someone makes a big deal of it in the media, how would your common everyday Jewish neighbor be offended by knowing you were praying in your church once a year publicly for his conversion?
    And why should a Catholic prayer in a Catholic service be changed to please ANYONE from another religion?
    Just askin’

  44. sanctamaria says:

    I think if the Pope became an professed TLM Pope, and did everything from 1962 and earlier, there would still be comments against what he says and does.

    “but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united.”
    This statement mean we are still praying for the conversion of the Jews. Any intellectual, intelligent mind would see and understand this. One must open up there minds to see that there can be more than one way of saying something. For example: Hello, Hey, Hiya, Good Day! Or, Jesus, Christ, Eternal King, Saviour, Messiah.

    We can have truth and peace together, yet many do not look for peace. Just criticism. All in the name of truth and how we have to stand up for what is right, we can’t water down the faith, yes we have heard it all many times. However, it is tired and it is old. Time to start preaching a new tune of love, sacrifice, peace and penance. This world is lacking in Augustine’s, Aquinas’ Sienna’s, Avila’s and so on. It is because there are too many microscopes on our Holy Father by his flock and not enough work, not enough duty of the moment, not enough actions, only words on blogs.

  45. introibo says:

    Go first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

  46. cothrige says:

    This issue simply confuses me, and this report, I am sad to say, has made it worse. I have such a hard time with the idea that as long as we think Jesus is doing the saving we don’t have to believe anything particular about how He chooses to do it. If Jews can be saved, by Jesus, without any participation in His Body, the Church, then why should I participate in that Body? Why should I bother with what the Jews don’t have to do? And what about all the other Christian groups? Surely they are no worse off than the Jews since they are in fact Christian. Why couldn’t I go back to my childhood church where I would suffer none of the requirements imposed on me by my Catholic faith? Life would be much easier, and surely I would still be saved. Why do we profess every week that we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and yet think no one needs to be in it? It is all very, very confusing.

  47. Sixupman says:

    The Holy Week liturgy [pre-revision] is both most moving and enlightening, it should be restored. Also, the transition between Old and New Testaments should be the subject of teaching and sermons from the pulpit and not the vague ramblings to which we are now subject.

    Regarding Jewry: there was on BBC a short series following the daily life of a Jewish family, it brought home to me the origins of some of our [some abandoned] customs. The Jews are the most unfortunate of people, for all their talents, they had Christ in their midst and rejected him. Yet we Catholics reject Christ each and every day in a multitude of ways, so let us temper our superiority with Charity. Zionism is an entirely different matter!

  48. Dof says:

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments, Sid – they will certainly give me food thought!

  49. Prof. Basto says:

    Now, if the Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis of Pope Pius XII is not enough to counter the erroneous thesis that the jews do not need conversion, and are saved by their own Faith, a thesis that is being espoused by some here because they are misled by a few paragraphs of a book interview in which the current Pope spoke as a private person, let us bring to the fore another document of the magisterium; hey, let us invoke the SOLEMN EXTRAORDINARY MAGISTERIUM.

    The Sacred Ecumenical Council of Florence in the Bull Cantate Domino, promulgated by Pope Eugene IV proclaimed that “not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics”, needed conversion to the Church for salvation, adding, in the usual harsh language of the time that they “cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock”.

    So jews do need conversion to the Holy Church in an immediate sense!

    And about placing hope in post-Christian judaism for salvation, the magisterium of the Council of Florence in Cantate Domino also teaches:

    “It firmly believes, professes, and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally”

  50. Sid says:

    [O]ne did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united. — Benedict XVI.

    Holy Father has read Romans, unlike some of the writebackers above.

    All of St. Paul’s letters were written for a purpose and written in a particular order. Paul wrote Romans to defend himself against the charge of antinomianism and against what today we would call antisemitism, both charges the result of his mistakes in Galatians. The sequence of the letters is Galatians, then the Corinthian correspondence, then Romans. Paul, in a fit of anger, denounced The Law (Torah) in Galatians. Yet his painful experience with the Corinthian congregation obliged him to clarify. Remember the poor fellow in Corinthians who married his stepmother, an offense against The Law? One can imagine him saying “But Paul, you said we didn’t have to follow The Law!” — to which Paul doubtless replied “That’s not what I meant!”.

    In Romans 1:18-3:20 Paul explains what he meant. There is the ritualistic Law — circumcision — which gentiles are not obliged to follow, and there is the moral Law which all humans must follow.

    Now go to Paul’s remark on the Jews in 3:1-2: Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God.. Now examine the the longer context: 2:12-3:20. The Jews have the written moral Law; the gentiles do not, unless it is written on their hearts. That is the Jew’s advantage. Yet if the Jew is faithless, he is no better off than the faithless gentile (3:9).

    So Jews do not need conversion in the missionary sense (the details of the moral Law), but in the sense of becoming faithful to that Law. How one so becomes is the topic of Romans 3:21-7:25.

    In passing: The writebacks of certain folks on this thread, whom we can only call “rad-trads”, appear to have a new and disturbing turn. To use a pun on shotgun terminology: these rad-trads have always fired double “ought” shot: That V2 ought be totally shredded, and the the Novus Ordo ought be burned. Now, sadly, this rad-trads have triple ought shot: Benedict has come into their crosshairs, they presuming to know the Magisterium, the Tradition, and Scripture better than he, they now ranking him with Kueng and Bugnini. As I said in my post at 22 November 2010 at 12:59 pm, that’s hardly gratitude to the man who maid the EF possible. Instead of this presumption, they and all of us who wish to be faithful should understand what Holy Father is saying by “conversion in a missionary sense” and by conversion in another sense. And what he is saying is following St. Paul.

    “[M]ight hasten the historic hour” is a reference to Romans 11, to which I’ll turn in the course of the day.

    And to avoid confusion, ich bin ein Traddy, aber kein Rad-Traddy.

  51. sanctamaria says:

    Sid –
    Excellent, truthful and wise post!
    It is really a blessing to come across knowledge, intelligence, and insight with regards to this posting!

    Thank you Fr.Z for the wonderful posting by the way!

    Happy Feast of Pope St Clement I

    We are writing this, beloved, not only for your admonition but also as a reminder to ourselves; for we are placed in the same arena, and the same contest lies before us. Hence we ought to put aside vain and useless concerns and should consider what is good, pleasing and acceptable in the sight of him who made us. Let us fix our gaze on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

    — Pope Saint Clement I

  52. Jason Keener says:


    No one here has a problem with the Book of Romans nor with Pope Benedict praying that the “Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united.” What we do find troubling is that the Pope would make a comment that seems to indicate that it is somehow improper to now pray in a missionary sense for the Jews. That seems to be a change in Catholic thinking. We are wondering how that change can be justified or understood in light of Catholic history. In the past, the Good Friday prayer asked that God would remove the veil from the hearts of the “faithless” Jews. That was a direct prayer for the immediate conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense because the Jews are in a need of immediate conversion, as is any non-Catholic. Are we to now consider that older Good Friday prayer wrong and inappropriate? If so, how can that approach now be wrong when it was used by the Church for centuries?

    By the way, I hardly think someone can be considered to be a “Rad Trad” for wanting a clarification to this issue and the other strange problems that have befallen the Church in the post-Vatican era. Even Pope Benedict Himself has called the Novus Ordo inorganic and parts of “Gaudium et Spes” “downright Pelagian.”

  53. Palmetto Papist says:

    “But also in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense, but that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united.”

    It seems to me that “missionary” is meant to be taken literally, that is, we do not pray for the Jewish people as a people (a sense perhaps we have lost), for that hour has already been promised. We pray, rather, that that hour come soon. In this way, we entrust ourselves to God’s promise.

    In no way, then, does this intent exclude personal witness or personal conversion. Read the prayer, which, by the way, is not the first revision to the original.

    On another note, my own view is that the presence of Jews among us makes the historical reality of the Incarnation more real. They are our living connection to the roots of the faith. Perhaps their part in the Divine plan is not over.

    On another note, the Pope’s comment about condoms, especially in the original German, is a simple statement about the positive movement of a sinful man’s conscience. As a sinner, I find it beautifully comforting. As an English teacher, I am distraught at the inability of many people to comprehend what they read. Perhaps if they read more Dostoevsky, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh, they would have a better sense of the mystery of sin and the greater mystery of grace.

  54. Craigmaddie says:

    Sid, have you considered the possibility that in his position as a private theologian the Holy Father is simply wrong? To accept that possibility is not to deny the dogma of infallibility. In fact we can see that in Scripture St Peter, the first pope, erred greviously concerning the Judaisers and yet he remained the Rock upon which Our Lord built His Church.

    I have found the following analysis by Don Paco at Ite ad Thomam instructive.

  55. Craigmaddie says:

    They are our living connection to the roots of the faith.

    In the sense that many of their ancestors lived in Palestine under the Old Law – Yes.

    In the sense that modern Orthodox Judaism is marred with a long-standing hatred of Christ and Christianity and is, in many places, profoundly racist (viz the Talmud, the writings of Moses Maimonides, etc) – No.

  56. danphunter1 says:

    This very good conversation begs the question, what “Jews” is the Father referring to here”

    Please forgive my ignorance here, but the majority of Jews that I have met in the many years working with Jews in Manhattan and elsewhere, are only “cultural Jews”, in that the majority of them are only Jewish in that there is a blood connection to ancestors who were Jewish.
    Almost all of them are not practicing any form of Judaism and many of them are atheists.
    Should we not want to go out and teach atheists about Almighty God, or is it better that they remain in their ignorance of He who loves them immensely?

    Also, since salvation is only through Christ it is a good thing to go out and teach Jews, whether they be atheist, Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed or Liberal, that Christ is the “Way the Truth and the Life” and no one comes to the Father except through Christ.

    As a personal example,[ and not to toot my own horn, for I don’t have one]:
    With the grace of Almighty God and a good priest friend of mine I have helped an atheistic Jew, first arrive at a belief in the Triune Godhead and eventually be baptised into the Church.
    This would have been impossible had I and others not gone out “missionary style” and taught him and his wife the Truth
    It is most important that we understand missionary conversion in a more personal sense, a one on one admonition and instruction, as opposed to an more abstract and personally distant concept.
    We must, as baptised, Confirmed soldiers of Christ, go out in our every day life and teach the Gospel message by both action and word.
    This is Charity.
    This is Love of Neighbor for Almighty Gods sake.

  57. dominic1955 says:

    One thing I find troubling about post-Conciliar theology is that it often moves us from a place of relative clarity (in as far as we are capable of grasping the mysteries of God) to a place of less clarity. The old Good Friday prayer for the Jews very clearly espouses Catholic teaching on this matter and it largely quotes from the Bible. Church teaching was also clear-Jews are in need of baptism and reception in the Church just like every other non-Christian non-Catholic. Their special place as the “people of God” is just not there anymore, we now have it, completely fulfilled, and they can have it too in this completed way if they convert.

    What we have now is profoundly less clear. Nothing of the “old” is outright denied and that which is emphasized in the new was implicit before. Thus, one cannot say what we have now is heretical or such, but still, its not as clear as it was. It also emphasizes things of secondary importance, the historical hour in which the Jews will unite to the Church en masse is something that will happen at some unknown time in the future. Its all good, but what about those Jews living now?

  58. Palmetto Papist says:


    “In the sense that many of their ancestors lived in Palestine under the Old Law – Yes. ”
    That’s all it takes. I am speaking of a historical connection. Their presence among us is a living witness to the historical reality of the New and Old Covenants.


    As I tried to point out, personal witness is not the same thing as “missionary.” Missionaries are sent to peoples, not to individual persons. Indeed, some commentors here seem to believe that there is no such thing as the Jewish people (nation) any longer, so they ought not be bothered by the idea that we not send missions to them.

  59. Sid says:

    I thank Sanctamaria for her comments. And I’m pleased that Palmetto Papist also can now be counted among those who “get it”.

    The writebacker at 23 November 2010 at 9:21 am doesn’t get it.

    “That seems to be a change in Catholic thinking.”
    If it be a change, it’s a good one.

    “We are wondering how that change can be justified or understood in light of Catholic history.”
    Well, the Bull Cum nimis absurdum from the worst pope ever is also Catholic history. (Text at Does the writebacker at 23 November 2010 at 9:21 am. wish THAT piece of lamentable history to be part of our tradition? And since when is St. Paul not part of Catholic history?

    And the same writebacker has not grasped the distinction Holy Father is making between a missionary conversion and another kind of conversion, a distinction that I explained in my previous writeback. So I’ll help him out.

    Let’s now turn to Romans 11:16-32. Paul has a beautiful analogy. There are two olive trees, one in an orchard tended by God and His Torah –the olive tree of Judaism –, and another “wild olive” tree not so tended. Now the Jews are the natural branches of the tended, cultivated olive tree, the gentiles of the wild tree. Some Jews are broken off branches from the cultivated tree. Some gentiles have been broken off the wild tree and have now been grafted by God onto the cultivated tree. (Note Paul’s strong admonition to the grafted on gentiles in vv. 18-20, an admonition that those opposing what Holy Father is saying ought to take seriously.) We gentiles are not the natural branches of God’s tree; Jews are.

    Paul further says (v. 24) that if we gentiles, who are unnatural branches, can be grafted on to cultivated tree of Judaism, how much more easier will it be for the natural branches to be grafted on, to be reattached to their natural tree. Paul then says (vv. 25, 26) that all Israel will be grafted back on (whether antisemites like it or not). This will be God’s doing.


    1. The grafting of the unnatural branches can be considered a “missionary conversion”, and the grafting of the natural branches is and will be a different conversion. Let’s call it a “hermeneutic conversion”, for it involves the Jews not coming to understand a new teaching but rather coming to understand their own teachings in the Tanakh, and that Christianity is the hermeneutic continuity with those teachings.

    2. Thus what we celebrate on 25 Jan is not Paul’s own missionary conversion but his hermeneutic conversion. Paul came to realize with the help of the grace on the road to Damascus that Rabbi Yeshua bar Yosef of the synagogue of Capernum was and is the Messiah, the Suffering and Glorified Servant, the Faithful One of Israel, and He had accomplished the ability to bring in of the gentiles as Isaiah had foretold.

    3. There is one olive tree tended and cultivated, not two. That means there are not two religions called “Judaism” and “Christianity”, but one. I’ve called this religion “Realized Isaiahic Judaism”; Paul would have called it “The realization of the most important covenant, the one with Abraham in Genesis 15.”

    4. Paul in no way distinguishes between the Jews of today and those of yesterday. To make such a soteriological distinction is unscriptural and sophistry.

    5. Thus when Holy Father says that our prayer for the Jews be “that the Lord might hasten the historic hour in which we will all be united”, he, well aware of this passage in Paul, is asking that we pray for the grafting on in vv. 25, 26.

    I’ll sum up shortly.

  60. danphunter1 says:

    “As I tried to point out, personal witness is not the same thing as “missionary.” Missionaries are sent to peoples, not to individual persons.”
    Palmetto Papist,
    Thank you for your comments.
    All Catholics through the Sacrament of Confirmation are sent forth to spread religious faith and as such we are all missionaries.
    And yes indeed, for mans salvation, it is most important that missionaries be sent to them.
    We are called to teach the Truth to all people and peoples.
    I spoke with an FSSP priest friend of mine and Fr. informed me that the answer to who the Holy father means by “Jews” are probably all those people who are only culturally Jewish as well as the Orthodox, Conservative, Liberal, Reformed etc.
    All who call themselves Jews.

  61. Craigmaddie says:

    That means there are not two religions called “Judaism” and “Christianity”, but one

    If you are referring to pre-Christian Judaism then you are absolutely right as Our Lord’s death upon the Cross was the both fulfillment and the abrogation of the Mosaic Covenant. The Church is the New Israel.

    However, If you are referring to modern Judaism then you are very much mistaken. Rabbinical Judaism is a false, man-made religion that was started by Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai in the town of Jamne after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. A little research amongst Jewish sources shows how many of the practices of Rabinical Judaism were – and still are to some extent – specifically anti-Christian. This is fact, not opinion. I guess having Jewish roots means that I somehow get to point this out without of being tarred with the brush of anti-Semitism. Which is silly, as a fact remains a fact regardless of the person who states it. But, then, we live in very mixed-up times.

    You simply cannot call modern Judaism and Christianity as one religion – in the same way that Islam and Christianity cannot be called one religion. To not pray for the conversion of the Jews to the true religion which is their rightful inheritance is uncharitable – it’s as simple as that.

  62. danphunter1 says:

    I have always had a deep love for the Jewish convert to the Church, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who loved her fellow Jews so much that:
    “When she took her vows, she offered her life in atonement for the sins of her ”unbelieving” Jewish people.”
    This is wonderful missionary love!

  63. Sid says:

    To sum up:

    To put the theology of so complex a thinker as St. Paul into a nutshell is no easy task. I’ll try, with the help of N. T. Wright’s Justification, 2009, and The New Testament and the People of God, 1992.

    1. There is one overriding covenant in Scripture, the Covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15: the covenantal promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore.

    2. Isaiah lifted the veil off this promise. What is meant is not Abraham’s biological descendants but his descendants by faithfulness. Abraham himself was faithful (Genesis 15:6), and those who are faithful to God as he was will be his descendants, as Paul is at pains to point out in Galatians 3, especially vv. 6-9.

    3. Isaiah therefore teaches that Israel has a mission, to bring all humans into the fold of faithfulness and to be descendants of God and heirs of the promise. Wright calls this (and he admits the clumsiness of the phrase) “God’s single-plan-through-Israel-for-the-world”.

    4. Yet Isaiah immediately see the problem. Israel, to carry out God’s plan, had to remain faithful. Yet she was not faithful (as the other prophets also teach). What is to be done? A Messiah, a Suffering Servant, one from Israel, would be the Faithful Israel, and would carry out the mission. Wright calls this “God’s single-plan-through-Israel’s-faithful-representative-for-the-world”.

    5. Now the Abrahamic promise-theology, correctly understood by Isaiah, is central to Paul’s thought, appearing at key moments in his narratives (Galatians 3. Romans 4, Romans 9). The Abrahamic promise appears central to St. Luke as well, as anyone who prays the Magnificat knows, and the mission of the Jews to be light unto the gentiles in the Nunc Dimittis.

    6. So, as I said in my previous post, Paul, at his hermeneutic (not missionary) conversion, was brought to realize that “God’s single-plan-through-Israel-for-the-world”, which was frustrated by Israel’s (and gentile) unfaithfulness (Romans 1-3:20), has been realized in “God’s single-plan-through-Israel’s-faithful-representative-for-the-world”, that Faithful Representative being Our Lord (Romans 3:21-8:39).

    So this strikes me as a different kind of conversion than the conversion of someone who hasn’t a clue about the Faith. Jews have the clue; they have more than the clue. We pray for “the historical hour” when they will hermeneuticly grasp the the promise to Abraham.

    We are all the seed of Abraham, if we are faithful. And that means we all should wear yellow stars.

    An afterthought: Let’s all listen carefully to Isaiah as he is read to us during Advent. The Book of Isaiah is the 5th Gospel.

  64. Sid says:

    The writebacker at 23 November 2010 at 12:58 pm is un-scriptural and sophistical. Paul knows no difference and makes no difference between “ancient” and “modern” Jews. Neither should we. And the same writebacker knows no history: The Council of Yavne and the later Mishnah are midrash on the Tanakh (as is the New Testament), and thus are in a certain hermeneutic continuity with the Tanakh (as is the New Testament) — and thus hardly “man-made” and started from scratch.

    To the writebacker at 23 November 2010 at 1:39 pm: The Jews, in Paul’s judgement, already are believing. They believe in the Promise to Abraham. And that’s better than those gentiles who have no belief at all. In fact the Jews are far better than many (most?) Christians, Christians who assume that everything revolves around them and their personal “getting saved” — revolving around them in a Ptolemaic fashion, when in fact these Christian ought to be revolving around God and His plan-through-Israel-for-the-World. We need a Copernican Revolution in spirituality.

    Jews at the “historical hour” will come to understand the true hermeneutic of that Promise to Abraham.

  65. danphunter1 says:

    On the Conversion of the Jews:
    The Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Dom Bernard Orchard, 1953, says of Romans 11:25-32:

    “From the present, (verses) 1-24, St. Paul turns his attention to the future. The time will come when the present problem of Israel’s exclusion from the salvation of the Messias will cease to exist because of her conversion, through missionary means, which will follow the conversion of the Gentiles. The final conversion of Israel could not be known to St. Paul from any natural source.”

  66. Palmetto Papist says:


    Clearly we are using “missionary” in two different ways. I am thinking of it in terms of the evangelization of a people or nation, not in personal evangelization. In this way, there is a distinction between “the Jews” (nation) and “Jews” (persons). In the context of the new prayer, if it is eschatological, then the prayer for the Jews, in a sense, is answered.

    Note that while we can pray for “the Jews,” we wouldn’t pray for “the atheists” or “the Protestants” or “the Muslims,” because none of these groups are nations. In fact, when we pray for atheists, we are including non-believing Jews, but not “the Jews.”

  67. danphunter1 says:

    My name is not “writebacker”.
    I kindly ask you to to please refer to me by my name as posted with my comment. That name is danphunter1

    Seperate and apart from a canonised saint believing that the Jews are unbelieving, the Church believes so as well.
    The 2008 Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the Missal of 1962:

    “Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. (Let us pray. Kneel. Rise.) Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

    It is common sense, why pray that the Lord illuminate their hearts and that they acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men, if they already believe this?

    God and “His plan through Israel for the world” has always and everywhere been taught by the Catholic Church as being that The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ being made man, whilst still God and born of flesh “in the fullness of time” to the Blessed Virgin Mother, and dying on the cross for the salvation of all men, and rising on the third day, and having established His Catholic Church on earth through the power of the Holy Ghost given to His Bishops, and led by the Holy Father, the power to confer 7 sacraments and offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, telling them and their successors to travel into the whole world converting all men to the Catholic Church baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and to believe everything the Church teaches in Her Extraordinary and Ordinary Magisterium, in order to attain eternal salvation.

    This is Almighty Gods plan through Israel to the world.

  68. Palmetto Papist says:

    Here’s my final comment since I am out of my theological league.

    I thought the question was about the phrasing we do “not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense.” Wondering about “missionary sense,” I drew certain conclusions, since the pope did not say we do “not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews at all.” Perhaps the answer is found in the original German. When I can get hold of it, my question might be better answered. Or maybe it is unwise to comment before reading the entire interview.

    I am still struck, though, by the idea of nation, which depends upon relation by birth. Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian Jews are still, curiously enough, Jews, are they not?

    The pope does affirm, in the 2008 prayer, that we pray for the Jews, so it seems like the proverbial teapot’s tempest. (And I am not one to shy away from precise language and fine distinctions.)

  69. Jason Keener says:


    Do you believe that Catholics today should work for the immediate conversion of Jewish People (individuals and groups) to the True Catholic Faith by praying for the Jews and instructing them in the truths of the Faith? (The answer to this question needs no long explanation. It is either “yes” or “no.” I would hope that everyone would say “yes.” If so, we agree on the essential point I am trying to make.)

  70. sanctamaria says:

    danphunter1 –
    “I have always had a deep love for the Jewish convert to the Church, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who loved her fellow Jews so much that:
    “When she took her vows, she offered her life in atonement for the sins of her ”unbelieving” Jewish people.”
    This is wonderful missionary love!”

    I agree, she is a wonderful example and a great Saint! Missionary love, love of all kinds, is conversion. LOVE = conversion.
    Conversion is not the CORRECT way to say every word in every sentence at every moment, because beware, it is going to be wishy washy and not the whole truth. It is going to be Vatican II and modern with a dash of liberal and protestant! It seems as though Pope Benedict can never get every word right, but those on here sure seem to… hmm….just another example of creating disunity – oh wait, I forgot, unity is Protestant and Modern, from the Post-Concilliar Church.
    Ah! Let me find my thesaurus to see if I can get a perfect word…

    Oh Holy Angels and Saints pray for us!

  71. sanctamaria says:

    I believe that we have to work for the conversion of Catholics as well. While Catholics may have the Truths of the Faith , they lack the virtues.

  72. JonM says:


    Yes, you bring up precisely the problem with this modernistic novelty that we need not pray for (and thus pursue actively) conversion of the Jews by way of missionaries, relgious education, and formal conversion.

    If Jews have special immunity and can expect Heaven, why not Presbyterians or Baptists? These latter do at least to some degree worship God as He is and profess the need for saving grace of Jesus Christ through His sacrifice. Logically then, any Trinitarian Christian who intends to follow Jesus could expect salvation without the chains of the Catholic faith, right?

    But of course this isn’t so. Jews are in need of conversion to the Catholic faith just as much as any animist, atheist, and Buddhist. Indeed, Muslims hold Jesus and Mary in exception esteem; the Jews do not. (@ Joseph: Yes, by definition if one identifies with or as the Jewish religion, he is rejecting Jesus Christ.)

    Don’t lose faith Cothrige. We as converts see just how indifferent so many Catholics are to the most awesome gifts imaginable. Sadly, this runs straight up through the hierarchy.

    We are not Catholics for the sake of any pundit or particular pope, we are sealed with the sign of faith because Jesus Christ mandated that this is the way to salvation.

    We can never receive the graces offered through the Church through any other vehicle. These graces include the sure forgiveness of any sin and the ability to directly receive God for ourselves.

    Despite what any prelate claims, the Magesterium teaches that salvation is through the Church alone. Throughout the ages it has been accepted that some who never are Catholic can reach salvation, this is clearly the exception. Traditionally, presumption is a sin against the Holy Spirit, so any of us able to have a conversation such as this would be directly putting ourselves in mortal danger by severing ourselves from the Church.

    Treat this unfolding apostasy as suffering to unite to Christ.

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