Italian Jews Back Out of Dialogue Day

Cite Concern Over Good Friday Prayer for Extraordinary Rite

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ROME, NOV. 20, 2008 ( A representative of the Church in Italy is expressing his sadness that the Jewish community will not join in Jan. 17’s day of dialogue between Jews and Catholics.

Giuseppe Laras, president of the Italian Rabbinic Assembly, announced the community’s cancellation. The rabbi explained that the decision was based on concern over the Good Friday prayer in use after Benedict XVI’s 2007 letter issued «motu proprio» opened the way to a broader use of the 1962 Missal. The Pope subsequently made changes to the Good Friday prayer for the Jews for that form of the liturgy. Those changes were released in February.

The new formula, used only by those communities celebrating Mass according to the 1962 Missal, «speaks of Jesus as the Christ and the salvation of all men, therefore, also of the Jews,» Cardinal Walter Kasper said shortly after the changes were released. Cardinal Kasper oversees the Vatican’s relations with Jews.

«Many have interpreted this affirmation as new, and not friendly in relation to the Jews. But it is based on the New Testament as a whole — cf. 1 Timothy 2:4 — and indicates the fundamental difference, which everyone knows, that exists between Christians and Jews,» the cardinal explained on that occasion.

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia, president of the Italian bishops’ Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, confessed that the Jewish decision to not participate in the January dialogue day «has pained us.»

The prelate told Vatican Radio that he had been in contact with Laras for months to try to overcome misunderstandings.

Though the bishop said the issue was resolved from his point of view, he said he could «understand the perplexity. This decision [not to participate] is sorrowful, but we will not give it more importance than necessary. The rabbi, in fact, in the note expresses the desire that obviously dialogue restarts and continues.

«We will continue celebrating this day of Judeo-Christian reflection on Jan. 17. It is a day that this year has been rather wounded, but we hope this wound serves to better deepen the indispensable relationship between Christians and Jews.»

The prelate acknowledged that worrying pockets of anti-Semitism still arise, and «this requires attentive vigilance: We have to make our relationship more intense to nip in the bud any seed that could favor these attitudes.»

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