Pope Francis Reimposes Restrictions of Latin Mass Which Calls on Jews to Convert

Pope Francis.

July 21, 2021

In a reversal of his predecessor’s 2007 decision, Pope Francis has reimposed restrictions on the Catholic Church’s use of the Latin Mass, a controversial form of liturgy which calls on Jews to convert and that until 2008 included a reference about Jewish “blindness.”

The pontiff’s move challenges traditionalists within the Church, who were outraged by the new limits.

Many Jewish groups had expressed concern at the time of Pope Benedict XVI’s original 2007 decree, citing passages in the Latin Mass which included a “prayer for the Jews” calling for their conversion to Christianity and referred to the “blindness” of Jews.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) at the time, penned a column denouncing the Vatican’s decision, worrying that it marked a turn away from all the progress the Church had achieved in it’s ties with the Jewish community over the previous four decades.

“The wider use of the Latin Mass will make it more difficult to implement the [positive] doctrines of Vatican II and Pope John Paul II, and could even set in motion retrograde forces within the church on the subject of the Jews, none of which are in the interest of either the church or the Jewish people,” Foxman wrote in 2007.

In his recent declaration, Pope Francis stated that his predecessor’s reform caused division and inadvertently fueled a reactionary faction of Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II.

The council, which convened between 1962-1965, sought to address the Church’s relationship with the modern world. Nostra Aetate, one of the council’s more controversial documents at the time, officially repudiated a charge long used across Europe to justify antisemitism, which ascribed collective responsibility to Jews for the death of Christ.

With Pope Francis’s latest decision, Catholic priests can only use the Latin Mass after receiving permission from their local bishop, and the local bishop must also verify that the priest wishing to use it accepts Vatican II.