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In Defense of Pope Benedict XVI By: Micah Halpern
MicahHalpern.com | Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Full disclosure:

I like Pope Benedict XVI.

I think Pope Benedict has a clearly articulated vision and direction for the Church. I think Pope Benedict understands the threat radical Islam poses to the world.

I think Pope Benedict is sincere in his appreciation and respect for Jews.

And I do not understand the big fuss circulating around the position Pope Benedict XVI has taken on reinstituting the Tridetine Mass, the mass that is known in certain circles as "the mass that prays to convert the Jews." I have studied the mass in Latin and I have studied the mass in English, I have examined versions of the mass pre 1965 and version post 1965. I have looked at its history and its role in Catholic ritual. I do not understand the hoopla.

You cannot be more catholic than the Pope - nobody can argue with that. And anybody who does not realize that a significant part of Christian doctrine, in general and Catholic doctrine, in particular is that the Jews are unfulfilled specifically because Judaism does not recognize Jesus as The Savior has no understanding of Christianity. There is no arguing that point. Even in interfaith dialogues and discussions it is a given - a point on which everyone chooses to agree to disagree for the sake of moving on and engaging in other dialogues and discussions.

The Tridentine Mass - when it is celebrated at all - is said once a year, on Good Friday morning. The original mass contained the word "perfidis" which, in the Latin of Catholic doctrine translated to mean "faithless." That was changed in 1960 when Pope John XXII made the decision to remove the religiously charged word. It is important to know that there are also other meanings for "perfidis" - deceitful, dishonest and untrustworthy - all Catholic concepts describing the characteristics of non-believers. So while the pre-1960 version of The Mass read: "Let us pray also for the 'perfidis' (faithless) Jews," the post-1960 version which actually took hold only post-1965 read: "Let us pray for the Jewish people. Lift the veil from the eyes of the Jews and end the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ." Change does not happen either quickly or arbitrarily within the Catholic Church.

The final, post-Second Vatican Council version of the Tridentine Mass has come to be know in the press as the prayer or mass for the conversion of the Jews. It reads something like this: "Lift the veil covering the hearts of Jews so that they may recognize Jesus Christ our Lord." "Let us pray for the Jews, that the face of the Lord our God may shine on them so that they too recognize the redeemer of all, Jesus Christ, our Lord." And The Mass continues: "Listen to Your church so that those who were once Your chosen people may reach the fulfillment of redemption."

For many years the Tridentine Mass has rarely been celebrated. Now, Pope Benedict XVI is calling upon the Church to reinstitute the Mass. And now, voices within the Catholic world as well as Jewish world are rising up in alarm, in anger, in confusion.

But why? Why should anyone - Catholic or Jew - be upset by the Tridentine Mass?

As for Catholics, only a Pope or Vatican Council can authorize change in Church doctrine. No one else, no outsider, should even try. It will never happen. Catholics are free to disagree, and when someone disagrees too much with the Church and with so much of the Church, they end up leaving the Church. One is free to disagree. And when you disagree too much with the Church you end up leaving the Church.

As for Jews, how narrow minded it is to be upset when the Pope, the supreme Catholic leader, chooses to reinstitute a prayer that clearly articulates, in as religiously polite as manner as is possible, just what the Catholic Church fundamentally believes to be truth.

In chapter 40 of Isaiah, the prophet describes non-believers as those who pray to emptiness and nothingness and to a god that cannot redeem them. Those words were originally incorporated into the famous Jewish prayer called "Aleinu," recited at the end of daily and holiday services. In the Middle Ages Christian censors removed the phrase from all European Jewish prayer books on the grounds that it was considered offensive.

The Middle Ages are long gone. Let us all move on. Together.

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Micah Halpern maintains The Micah Report.


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