Opus sacerdotale Amici Israel
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The Opus sacerdotale Amici Israel or the Clerical Association of Friends of Israel, was a short-lived international organization of Roman Catholic priests founded in Rome in February 1926. Its purpose was to pray for the conversion of the Jews and to promote a favorable attitude towards them within the Roman Catholic Church. By the end of the year, its membership included 18 cardinals, 200 bishops and about 2,000 priests. When the association was dissolved by the Holy Office on 28 March 1928, its membership included 19 cardinals, more than 300 bishops and archbishops and about 3,000 priests.
Its ideas were outlined in leaflets written in Latin and circulated among the clergy.
Its first request to the Church was that the word "perfidis", which described the Jews during the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, be removed, since some believed the prayer could be interpreted as anti-Semitic. Pope Pius XI asked the Congregation of Rites to consider the proposed reform. Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, a member of the Amici Israel and a liturgist who was then a Benedictine abbot and soon to become Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, was appointed to monitor this issue. The Congregation of Rites authorized the proposed change but the Holy Office withheld its consent. On 7 March 1928 its head, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, himself a member of the Friends, objected:
This report put forward by the so-called Amici Israel strikes me as completely unacceptable, indeed even rash. We are dealing with ancient prayers and rites of the liturgy of the Church, a liturgy inspired and consecrated for centuries that includes condemnation of the rebellion and betrayal perpetrated by the chosen people who were at once unfaithful and deicide.... I would hope that these Amici Israel would not fall into a trap laid by the Jews themselves, who insinuate themselves throughout modern society and seek with whatever means to minimize the memory of their history and take advantage of the good will of Christians.
Pius reluctantly accepted this view the next day. He advised that the announcement that the Amici was being dissolved be handled with great care.
The decree from the Holy Office that announced the suppression of the association upheld the traditional Catholic belief that Christianity had superseded Judaism (supersessionism), asserted the need to pray for the conversion of the Jews, and firmly condemned racist antisemitism:
The Catholic Church has always prayed for the Jewish people–who until the coming of Jesus Christ were the depository of the divine promises–in spite of or even more because of the continual blindness of that people. With such charity has the Apostolic See protected this same people against unjust vexations! Because it reproves all hatreds and animosities between peoples, it condemns without reservation hatred against the people once chosen by God, a hatred that today is commonly called 'anti-Semitism'.
This was the Holy See's first authoritative statement condemning anti-semitism.
- Macina, Menahem (2003). "L'abolition de l'Opus sacerdotale Amici Israel". Travaux Recherches de l'Université (in French). Lille. pp. 87–110. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
L'Église catholique, en effet, a toujours eu coutume de prier pour le peuple juif, qui fut le dépositaire des promesses divines jusqu’à Jésus-Christ, malgré l’aveuglement continuel de ce peuple, bien plus, à cause même de cet aveuglement. Avec quelle charité le Siège apostolique n’a-t-il pas protégé le même peuple contre les vexations injustes! Parce qu’il réprouve toutes les haines et les animosités entre les peuples, il condamne au plus haut point la haine contre le peuple autrefois choisi par Dieu, cette haine qu’aujourd’hui on a coutume de désigner sous le non d’“antisémitisme”.
- Fattorini, Emma (2011). Hitler, Mussolini and the Vatican: Pope Pius XI and the Speech That was Never Made. Polity Press. p. 109.