VATICAN CITY - The Vatican yesterday issued a new version of a Roman Catholic prayer that had long offended Jews, but some said the changes don't go far enough.
Jewish groups said they interpreted the new version of the prayer for Jews as requiring members of their faith - and all of humanity - to convert to Christianity in order to find salvation.
The prayer for Jews is recited during Good Friday services of Easter Week, the most solemn week in the Christian calendar, in which the faithful commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus Christ before his resurrection on Easter. The prayer is part of the old Latin rite, also known as the Tridentine rite, which was celebrated before the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s paved the way for the New Mass used widely today in local languages.
Last summer, Pope Benedict XVI allowed wider use of the old Latin rite. That prompted criticism from Jewish groups who had long been offended by the Good Friday prayer and lamented that it might be celebrated more broadly.
To answer concerns, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, number two at the Vatican, said last summer the issue would be resolved and yesterday his office published the new text of the prayer, in Latin, on the front page of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
According to an unofficial translation, the prayer now reads:
"Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord our God illuminate their hearts so that they may recognize Jesus Christ savior of all men. . . . Almighty and everlasting God, you who wants all men to be saved and to gain knowledge of the truth, kindly allow that, as all peoples enter into your Church, all of Israel be saved."
The prayer removes key words that Jews had found particularly offensive in the earlier version, including a reference to their "blindness" and the need to "remove the veil from their hearts."
The paper said the text would be used starting on Good Friday this year, which falls on March 21. Vatican officials had said previously that the prayer would continue to urge Jews to convert.
Rabbi David Rosen, a key Jewish-Vatican liaison and head of interreligious relations at the American Jewish Committee, said he was disappointed by the new text.
"It's pretty clear that there's no fullness of salvation outside the Church" under the prayer's language, he said.