FACT CHECK: Did Latin Mass Adherents Bring Back Prayers About ‘The Perfidious Jew?’

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

The Associated Press (AP) reported that “Latin Mass adherents…have brought back ancient prayers that mention ‘the perfidious Jew.'”

Verdict: Unsubstantiated

The wording of the prayer was changed in 1959. The Roman Missal of 1962, which is the authorized liturgical book for the Traditional Latin Mass, does not contain the phrase “perfidious Jew.” Pope Benedict XVI also changed the prayer in 2008.

Fact Check:

The Associated Press recently reported on how traditionalism is returning to the U.S. Catholic Church after the reforms of Vatican II. In its report, it mentions “Latin Mass adherents” and a prayer that uses the words “the perfidious Jew.”

“But the movement, whether called conservative or orthodox or traditionalist or authentic, can be hard to define. It ranges from Catholics who want more incense, to Latin Mass adherents who have brought back ancient prayers that mention ‘the perfidious Jew,'” the AP reported.

The prayer originated from Tridentine Mass, which was implemented by Pope Pius V in 1570 after the Council of Trent. It was said in the Good Friday prayers, according to Wikipedia. The original prayer, in Latin, reads “Oremus pro Judaeis perfidis.”

“Let us pray also for the faithless Jews [perfidis Judaeis]: that Almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord,” the prayer partially reads, according to the New Liturgical Movement, a traditionalist-leaning website.

Fr. Joseph Brom, SJC, an associate pastor at St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago and a member of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, told Check Your Fact that the “offending phrase is praying for the pérfidis Judǽis, which is often translated as perfidious Jews.”

“However, this is a false cognate.  The Latin word means faithless (in that they do not believe in Jesus), whereas the English word has taken on the additional meaning of traitorous, which is not present in the Latin meaning,” Brom said.

Perfidious means “deliberately faithless; treacherous; deceitful,” according to Dictionary.com. Pope Pius XII declared that the word meant “unbelieving” and not “treacherous” or “deceitful,” according to Wikipedia.

Brom further said that the “prayer was changed by Pope John XXIII for inclusion in the 1962 version of the missal to remove the adjective perfidis.” The word perfidis was removed in 1959 by Pope John XXIII, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He would later stop a Good Friday liturgy that contained the word in 1963, the New York Times reported at the time.

The Mass of Pope Paul VI or the Novus Ordo Missaewhich became the primary Roman Rite in 1970, removed the prayer altogether and replaced it, according to the New Liturgical Movement. (RELATED: Is Joe Biden Facing ‘Excommunication’ From The Catholic Church?) 

The new prayer partially reads, “Let us pray also for the Jewish people, to whom the Lord our God spoke first, that he may grant them to advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.”

Pope Benedict XVI liberalized the use of the Tridentine Mass in his 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. He later changed the Good Friday prayers to the Jews in 2008, removing the reference to “veil from their hearts,” according to Catholic News Agency.

The Roman Missal of 1962, the last missal that contains the Tridentine Mass, does not contain the word perfidis. Check Your Fact reviewed the Good Friday prayers in the Roman Missal of 1962. The version reviewed (not the one linked) is from 2004, four years before Pope Benedict XVI changed the prayer.

The prayer reads, “Let us pray also for the Jews: that our God and Lord would remove the veil from their hearts: that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There is no use of the word “perfidious.” The Latin says “Oremus et pro Judeais” which is different from the pre-1962 version.

“When Pope Benedict XVI allowed for greater celebration of the 1962 Missal in 2007, he soon after ordered another change to the same prayer. Thus, anyone who currently uses the 1962 Missal would use a prayer that is two modifications removed from the prayer that used perfidis,'” Brom said.

The Secretariat of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), which uses the Roman Missal of 1962 and is in communion with the Holy See, told Check Your Fact in an email that “the FSSP uses the Liturgical books in force in 1962, which never had the word ‘perfidious’ in that prayer.”

“Furthermore, an amended prayer for the Jews was promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI for use by those who use the 1962 Missal or the ‘usus antiquior’ (i.e. older usage),” the secretariat said and pointed to the prayer.

Priest: Let us also pray for the Jews that God our Lord should illuminate their hearts, so that they will recognize Jesus Christ, the Savior of all men.

Priest: Let us pray.  Deacon: Let us genuflect…  Rise.

Priest: All-powerful and eternal God, you who wish that all men be saved and come to the recognition of truth, graciously grant that when the fullness of peoples enters your Church all of Israel will be saved. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”

“The 1962 Missale Romanum printed by Nova et Vetera in collaboration with the FSSP has the prayer as promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI,” the secretariat added.

Brom said that some “groups have since begun using missals from before 1962 for the Holy Week liturgies because of a great number of changes that were made in 1955 that some see as detrimental to the liturgy.”

Fr. Jacob Straub, a Catholic priest, said on Twitter that the 2008 prayer is also in the pre-1955 celebrations still authorized by the Holy See. (RELATED: Video Claims To Show Catholic Church Bombed By Israel In Gaza)

Pope Francis greatly restricted the use of the Tridentine Mass in his 2021 motu proprio Traditionis CustodesThe FSSP later released a statement in February 2022 that states Pope Francis made ‘clear that institutes such as the Fraternity of St. Peter are not affected by the general provisions of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes.”

It is possible that Traditional Latin Mass groups that are not in full communion with the Holy See, such as the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), still use the prayer. However, SSPX uses the Roman Missal of 1962, with its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (excommunicated in 1988), defending its use in a 1983 letter, according to its website.

“The basic principle of the Society’s thinking and action in the painful crisis the Church is going through is the principle taught by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica (II, II, q. 33, a.4). That one may not oppose the authority of the Church except in the case of imminent danger to the Faith. Now, there is no danger for the Faith in the liturgy of Pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII, whereas there is great danger for the Faith in the liturgy of Pope Paul VI, which is unacceptable,” Lefebvre wrote.

There are other groups, such as the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV), that appear to use the 1954 Roman Missal, which likely contains the old prayer to the Jews. SSPV broke away from SSPX over liturgical issues and is considered a sedevacantist group.

Sedevacantistism is a “term used to describe a belief held by those who identify as members of the Catholic Church yet claim that the office of the pope is currently vacant and has been vacant since a certain point in history,” according to WherePeterIs.

Check Your Fact reached out to the Associated Press, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and various groups in full communion with the Holy See that celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, such as the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and the Canon Regulars of New Jerusalem, for comment.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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