A committee of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops has advised pastors not to use a traditional Easter week chant that long has been considered offensive to Jews.
Jewish leaders hailed the recommendation as a significant contribution to Jewish-Christian relations.
The secretariat of the bishops' committee on liturgy, headed by Archbishop John Quinn of Oklahoma City, said studies are under way in hope of revising the controversial text.
Until the revision is available, the secretariat said it "strongly encourages" Catholic parishes to avoid using the part of the Holy Week services called the "Reproaches," and to substitute optional hymns.
It's a welcome concrete action translating declared church principle into tangible reality," commented Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.
He said the "Reproaches" imply a "hostile and insulting" view of the Jewish people, conveying the notion of collective Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus - a notion specifically repudiated by most major churches, including Roman Catholics.
The Episocpal Church, as its convention last fall, eliminated the "Reproaches" from its newly approved Book of Common Prayer, after numerous delegates cited the anti-Jewish connotations of the material.
The Roman Catholic secretariat, in recommending that parishes omit the chant from its usual place in Holy Week services, also noted that the material has been seen as directed at Jews, and added, "The church certainly does not intend to foster such an interpretation in its liturgy."
Basis of the church advisory against the "Reproaches" goes back to the declaration of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, condemning anti-Semitism, rejecting the Medieval notion of Jewish "decide" (God-killing), and emphasizing Christianity's ties to Judaism and roots in it.
Subsequently, the Vatican issued guidelines in 1975 to foster cooperative relations with Judaism and to guard against negative liturgical referrences to that kindred faith.