NEW YORK (AFP) — A leading US Jewish organization on Friday said the Vatican had not done enough to allay its concerns about the introduction of a Latin prayer calling for the conversion of Jews.
The Anti-Defamation League said a statement from the Vatican that the new formulation of the prayer "in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews," did not go far enough.
"On this issue the Vatican has taken two steps forward and three steps backward," Abraham Foxman, the league's national director, said in a statement.
He echoed earlier comments from Jewish leaders, who last month criticized the pope for his refusal to abolish the prayer in the Latin mass on Good Friday -- the day that commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
"It is reassuring that the Catholic Church remains committed to the ideals of Nostra Aetate," Foxman said, in reference to a document repudiating the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus.
"Yet it is troubling that the statement still does not specifically say that the Catholic Church is opposed to proselytizing Jews.
"The statement does not go far enough to allay concerns about how the message of this prayer will be understood by the people in the pews," he added.
In its statement earlier Friday, the Holy See stressed the "unique bond with which the people of the New Testament is spiritually linked with the stock of Abraham and rejects every attitude of contempt or discrimination against Jews.
It said it firmly repudiated "any kind of anti-Semitism."
The "Prayer for Jews" was dropped in the 1960s, but reappeared last year after Pope Benedict XVI restored the Latin Rite mass. It was toned down but retains the call for Jews to be converted.
German rabbi Walter Homolka earlier said Jews found its message deeply offensive. "The Church does not have its anti-Semitic tendencies under control," he told the online version of the weekly Der Spiegel.
The Vatican statement came just days before the pope is scheduled to meet US Jewish leaders, the most significant Jewish community outside Israel, during his trip to the United States from April 15-20.
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