Everbody wants a piece of him

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 4, 2008

We already know tickets for one of the public events for Pope Benedict XVI are the hottest thing in town — and almost impossible to come by. But, even with as tightly scripted a schedule as there is planned for the papal visit to the United States, there's always a way to squeeze in some last-minute issues.

Witness the decision made by the Vatican to include two brief visits with American Jewish leaders. The New York Times reported April 4 that two new events have been included in Benedict XVI's schedule. In Washington April 17, after holding a meeting with other religious leaders at the John Paul II Cultural Centre, he will have a quick chat in a sideroom with about 50 Jewish representatives. The Times reports that he will offer greetings for the Jewish Passoover, which starts two days later.

The very next day in New York, Benedict will make a quick stop at the Park East Synagogue, marking the first time a pope has every visited an American synagogue.
Why these visits were shoehorned into the Pope's schedule is a matter of some conjecture at the moment. It could be (we're just guessing, obviously) that it has something to do with the ongoing controversy over the prayer of conversion for Jews found in the Good Friday version of the Latin Mass, which the Pope approved. The earlier version was deemed highly offensive by some Jewish leaders and it was subsequently changed. However, this hasn't mollified everyone.
That the issue hasn't gone away was underlined April 4 by a clarification issued by the Holy See Press Office regarding that prayer, known as the "Oremus et pro Iudaeis" for the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal.
It says, in part:
"The Holy See wishes to reassure that the new formulation of the Prayer, which modifies certain expressions of the 1962 Missal, in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews which has evolved from the basis of the Second Vatican Council, particularly the declaration Nostra Aetate. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI, in an audience with the Chief Rabbis of Israel on 15 September 2005, remarked that this document has proven to be a milestone on the road towards the reconciliation of Christians with the Jewish people. The continuation of the position found in Nostra Aetate is clearly shown by the fact that the prayer contained in the 1970 Missal continues to be in full use, and is the ordinary form of the prayer of Catholics."
Some have been hoping that the Pope brings stern warnings and admonitions for the American people on this visit. Perhaps. But it seems he will also be doing some fence-mending at the same time.

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