Pope Francis yesterday removed from the Latin Mass a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, taking from the liturgy the following prayer:
Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men. Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Even a most perfunctory survey of the history of anti-Semitism would convey a sense of how such attitudes led to centuries of violence. Anti-Semitism arose from a sectarian Christian attitude towards the Jews that originated in the divisions of the late First Century. The Jews, declining to accept the claims made about Jesus, became the object of Christian hatred; subjected to absurd accusations, they were repeatedly the victims of irrational bouts of violence.
The Church of England played its part in perpetuating an atmosphere of hostility to the Jews. The Good Friday prayers from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer still in use in the Church of England include the following prayer:
O MERCIFUL God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Church of England spent centuries regarding Jews (as well as Muslims and other religious traditions) as receiving God’s mercy only by becoming good, presumably Protestant, Christians, those who regarded themselves as the “true Israelites.”
While the Pope has removed the prayer for conversion from the Roman Catholic liturgy, the Church of England has failed to make a similar response.
Presumably, the bishops would argue that the Book of Common Prayer could only be revised by an Act of Parliament and the last time such a measure was tried in 1928, it was unsuccessful. However, it would not take an Act of Parliament to remove the prayer from the Church of England website, but perhaps that would mean an acknowledgement of the centuries of intolerance.