The Good Friday Prayer Controversy:
Terminated by La Civiltà Cattolica

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant

(Posted March 8, 2008 In his March 7, 2008 column, “A Bishop and a Rabbi Defend the Prayer for the Salvation of the Jews” (, journalist Sandro Magister resurrects two early February articles—one by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the pontifical council of culture, and the other by Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a professor of Jewish history and theology at Bard College in New York.  While the Rabbi’s article is useful to those rightly attempting to quell concerns and protests raised especially by the assembly of Italian rabbis after the release of Pope Benedict’s revised Good Friday prayer, the article by Ravasi contains so much convoluted language where Jewish/Christian theology is concerned that it’s difficult to ascertain with any degree of certitude what the Archbishop’s objective in writing it might have been.

These two articles were resurrected, apparently, in an attempt to temper a solid conclusion to the controversy just published in the March 1, 2008 issue of La Civiltà Cattolica, the magazine of the Rome Jesuits that reputedly undergoes line-by-line scrutiny by the Vatican secretariat of state. The note is published under the title "Oremus et pro Iudaeis"—“Let Us Pray for the Jews”—and is signed by Fr. Giuseppe De Rosa, S.J.  Here is the Note’s conclusion, which Magister describes as “convoluted” but which, in our opinion, ends all further debate over the orthodoxy of the revised prayer, which is plain in any event:

This [the new GF prayer] contains nothing that is offensive toward Jews, because in it the Church asks God what St. Paul asked for Christians: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may enlighten the eyes of the Ephesians' hearts, that they may understand the gift of salvation that they have in Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:18-23). The Church, in fact, believes that salvation is only in Jesus Christ, as is said in the Acts of the Apostles (4:12). It is clear, besides, that Christian prayer can be nothing other than 'Christian', meaning that it is founded upon the faith – which is not that of all – that Jesus is the Savior of all men. For this reason, the Jews have no reason to be offended if the Church asks God to enlighten them so that they may freely recognize Christ, the only Savior of all men, and that they too may be saved by the One whom Shalom Ben Chorin, a Jew, calls 'Brother Jesus'. (See March 1, 2008 issue of "La Civiltà Cattolica," issue number 3785, "Oremus et pro Iudaeis," by Fr. Giuseppe De Rosa, S.J.)

As far as The Remnant is concerned, the matter is closed.  Traditional priests on all sides of the question have examined the prayer, and while some regret the decision to revise it in the first place, all agree that the new prayer reiterates Catholic teaching on salvation.

In addition, we members of the laity, knowing that the Church is not some Gnostic sect, can also read the new prayer and easily recognize its words for what they are—a clear reiteration of Catholic truth.  No amount of spin from the left or the right can change the essential meaning of the prayer, and it is our contention that the matter should be left at that.

Therefore, unless the Pope himself, in some wild and unthinkable scenario, were to retract the revised prayer or offer some formal clarification of it, La Civiltà Cattolica’s Note should suffice to end the debate over whether the prayer reflects some intention to water down the Church’s teaching on salvation exclusively through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Thus, we have no intention of wasting any time on the various spin-doctored “interpretations” of the new prayer from various proponents of the ecumenical movement that may well be forthcoming ad nauseam from various quarters. A few days ago, Cardinal Kasper predicted that the controversy would likely end, once and for all, some time in March and that Cardinal Bertone would have a hand in it.  It must be said that this nervous ninny attitude of Cardinal Kasper’s and others over the Pope’s revision is getting a little embarrassing. The meaning of the prayer is clear, La Civiltà Cattolica has confirmed that meaning—if such were necessary—and it’s time to move on.

Our objective here at The Remnant in accepting the revised prayer after it had been published was simple—to defend the Pope against secularist critics who had been rallying themselves against the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum for a long time even before July 7, 2007, and who were using the Good Friday prayer as a battering ram to knock down the MP.  We now feel certain that the Motu Proprio will survive this attack since, clearly, the Pope has stood his ground.  It is time now to brace for the next stage of the attack.

Meanwhile, it is a matter of no small regret that a rift over this issue has set in with certain allies in the traditional Catholic movement. No doubt some of those who opposed the Good Friday prayer were motivated primarily by a concern that, while rapprochement between the SSPX and the Vatican is desired by all traditional Catholics, a premature rapprochement would not serve the cause. That motivation is understandable.  Indeed, much work and prayer is required of us all as the slow process of restoration begins to take root under the reign of Pope Benedict XVI.  Let us not forget that it was Bishop Fellay himself who called for the liberation of the Traditional Mass, who had a million Rosaries said for that intention, who called the Motu Proprio an “historic step of immense importance”, and who then had a million Rosaries said in thanksgiving for the Pope’s MP.  

We ask our readers to pray for the intention that the coming restoration—which was always inevitable—not be derailed by its opponents within and without the Vatican.  The battle is far, far from over, and the enemies of Tradition are not done yet—not by a long shot.  At any moment we may find ourselves forced to resume a loyal opposition to the kinds of decisions that brought on the great ecclesial crisis in the first place, as those same enemies inside the Church agitate against the continued restoration of the traditional Mass.  But we should pray that the post-conciliar revolution is at least beginning to near its end, and that the Consecration of Russia and the triumph of the Immaculate Heart will not be long in coming.

In particular, let us pray that the new directive coming soon from the Vatican on the further implementation of the MP does not include anything that might impede the return of the Latin Mass or cause further division among tradition-minded Catholics.

As a dear friend and venerable Remnant contributor  recently noted when explaining why she believes Catholics must accept the GF revision:  "The Holy Ghost is clearly working through Pope Benedict even if, at times, in spite of Joseph Ratzinger."   The MP will advance the Cause of truth so long as we don’t give in to unjust compromise. For reasons already noted, the GF prayer was not an unjust compromise; it was not an ecumenical sell out; it was the Pope’s attempt to remove an impasse set up by the likes of Abe Foxman to prevent the traditional Mass from moving into the heart of the Church. It may not have worked; it may not have been necessary; but that is what it was--a strategic move designed to remove opposition to the MP.  

This is a fight to the finish, and many assaults by the enemies of Tradition may have to be repelled in the days ahead. But, as Michael Davies explained thirty years ago (see Page 7 of this issue of The Remnant), the Mass must be restored first before any other victory can be gained. To that end, we must pray the Rosary every day and support the restoration of the Mass through the MP!