Missing John Paul II

While his views on homosexuality and gender left much to be desired, Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to visit Auschwitz, where he kneeled at the memorial. He prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. He visited the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. He visited the Mosque in Rome. He reached out to Eastern Orthodox and Protestants.

In contrast, Pope Benedict XVI, the cardinal formerly known as Ratzinger, just reinstated the Latin Mass.

Why should non-Catholics care? Because behind this is a decades long struggle within the Church over whether it will embrace the liberalizing changes of Vatican II or revert back to its earlier intolerance. By reinstating the Latin Mass, Pope Benedict has signaled that the conservatives have won (for now.)

For those of you who don't know, Vatican II refers to the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican convened by Pope John XXIII in the 1960s. Out of it came a wave of sweeping changes intending to make worship more accessible to the laity, and to recognize the validity of other faith traditions. Vatican II is why I love Catholicism; without it, not so much.

One example of changes made is the prayer for the Jews within the Mass:

The 1962 Latin version says: Let us pray also for the Jews that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you do not refuse your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness.

The 1970 post Vatican II version says: Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption.

One can see why the Anti-Defamation League is less than pleased with the reversion to the Latin prayer. The difference between the two shows a clear difference in theology. The Latin liturgy shows an exclusivist theology that believes that non-Christians are blind, inferior, and likely going to hell. The post Vatican II prayer is inclusivist. That is, Catholicism is still the right religion but not everyone need actually be Catholic/Christian to be saved.

What you believe often affects how you treat others.

As Italian bishop Luca Brandolini stated: "It's a day of mourning, not just for me but for the many people who worked for the Second Vatican Council. A reform for which many people worked, with great sacrifice and only inspired by the desire to renew the Church, has now been canceled."

I fear is that this decision is indicative of a general move backwards. Looking at the world today, everyone is circling their wagons, instead of reaching out to others. And I fear, between this and the anti-Islamic statements that he made, that the current pope would be more happy with "holy war" than with peace.

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