Priests: Remove antisemitic liturgy


A group of 12 Orthodox priests have called on their Church to review its longstanding theological positions toward Jews and the State of Israel, and to excise anti-Semitic passages from its liturgy.

The dissident priests made their demands in a 12-point declaration adopted during a week long visit to Israel that is meant to spur debate in the Orthodox Christian world and to challenge centuries-old anti-Semitic views.

“Sadly, there are some Orthodox Christians who propagate disgusting antisemitism under the banner of Orthodoxy, which is incompatible with Christianity,” said Rev. Innokenty Pavlov, professor of theology at Moscow’s Biblical Theological Institute.

“We have to raise our voices and call on Orthodox laity and the Church leadership to formulate an official position of the Orthodox Church toward our relations with Judaism, as it was formulated a few decades ago by the Catholic Church,” he added, referring to the Second Vatican Council of 1962 to 1965.

The 10-page declaration issued Thursday calls for the renunciation of replacement theology and the removal of anti-Semitic passages from Church liturgy – particularly Easter services – and endorses the eternal connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. The passages appear in the standard Orthodox liturgy all over the world.

The dozen Orthodox priests who signed the declaration – some in open defiance of directives from church leadership – represent five different Orthodox churches, including the Russian, Greek, Ukrainian, Georgian and Ecumenical Orthodox Churches.

“We came to the firm belief that it is high time for the Orthodox Church to correct its attitude toward Jews and Judaism,” the declaration states.

Unlike the Catholic and Protestant churches, the Orthodox Church has never removed anti-Semitic passages from its liturgy, which still refers to Jews as Christ killers, said Dr. Dmitry Radyehsvky, director of the Jerusalem Summit, a conservative Israeli think tank that co-sponsored the visit.

He said the anti-Semitic passages were most conspicuous during Easter services, and included statements such as “the Jewish tribe which condemned you to crucifixion, repay them, Oh Lord,” which is repeated half a dozen times, and “Christ has risen but the Jewish seed has perished,” as well as references to Jews as “God-killers.”

“Orthodox Christianity lives up to its name: it’s extremely conservative – even more than Catholicism,” Radyehsvky said.

“For them to even pose the question about the need to throw out Judophobic passages from the liturgy, which were there for 1,500 years, is a revolution,” he said.

Radyshevsky said that while some of the best Orthodox Christian philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries, like Vladimir Soloviev and Sergiy Bulgakov, were philosemites, it never filtered down to the masses.

Now, however, some Orthodox Christian intellectuals feel their church needs revival and that this has to start with their roots: reconciliation with the Jews.

“It is high time to start the dialogue between Orthodox Christianity and Judaism,” said Rev. Ioann Sviridov, editor-in-chief of the Russian Christian radio-station Sophia.

“In light of rising antisemitism and other manifestations of nationalism in Russia, our church has to respond to this ugly phenomena and review some of the aspects of its relations with Jews and Judaism,” he said.

April 20, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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  1. BB, believing in the virgin birth of Jesus, in his being the son of God or God himself if one is Catholic and believes in the Holy Trinity of the inextricable 3 aspects of God rendered into an indivisible oneness of God, and the resurrection of Jesus, makes no sense measured against what we know and which science has revealed to us.

    Still these fundamental Christian beliefs make all the sense in the world and are as real for those of absolute Christian faith as if these beliefs were clearly visible as all tangible things are that our eyes behold and the existence of which are positively proven by science.

    There are passages in the Gospels and Chritian liturgy that blame the Jews and whitewash the Romans for the death of Jesus. These passages villify and damn Jews for eternity for the death of Jesus.

    In the context of Jewish history until Christianity’s break from Judaism and thereafter the Jewish and Christian histories, there were tensions between the Pharisees who led and represented traditional Judaism and other smaller Jewish sects such as the Jewish sect that was to become Christianity. Tensions increased as the Jewish sect to become Christianity grew. Those tensions continued to fester and become far more fractious by the time the Gospel of John was written, which is recognized as probably the Gospel that most damms, demonizes and villifies the Jews.

    With Constantine’s making Christianity the sole religion of the Roman empire and his consolidating his power through Christianity and by calling certain Christian sects, but not all to come to an agreement on the writings of Christianity to be canonized and which were to be rejected and concluding with the Nicean code which included an imperial as well as Christian decree that all who did not accept Jesus and the teachings of Christianity were to be anathemetized or cursed.

    To be sure, within the Gospels themselves is the key to understanding that Jesus’ ultimate death was orchestrated by Jesus or by God. His best friend, Judas was to betray him, his desciple Peter was to deny him 3 times which he did, but no ill will was bore him, and so on.

    If the Jews had any hand in the death of Jesus, it was the hand of God that directed them. It makes no sense therefore that God would set the Jews up for eternal damnation for God’s own wrongful act of murdering his own son to serve his purpose and the purpose of a small sect within Jewish society.

    While none of this makes sense, nonetheless it was only in the last 40 years or so that the Catholic and Protestant Churches sought to remove the cause of Christian Jew hatred and now in 2007, a handful of Orthodox priests, only 12 in number are seeking to do the same thing and move the upper heirarchy of their Orthodox Church to go along with them.

    Who would have thought that 2000 years after the death of Jesus, many Christians and their leaders including Church leaders continue to hold views of the Jews that make no sense.

    It does however make a great deal of sense in this day and age for Christians all to rid themselves of their Jew hating nonsense. It also makes sense to take note that a great many have tried to do so and of those, a great many have very laudibly completely succeeded. Though that goal is still a work in progress for some, it should be also noted that many Christians to their great credit are still working towards achieving that goal.

  2. I attend Orhtodox Liturgy fairly regularly and I was never even aware those quotes were in there.

    From a theological point of view, it really makes no sense for a Christian to be anti-Semitic because Christ was also a Jew and the New Testament makes a point of his mother’s Jewish lineage. So to be anti-Semitic is also to be anti-Jesus and therefore, anti-Christian, and one can’t logically be a Christian and an anti-Christian at the same time. How can a real Christian “love Jesus” and “hate Jews” when Jesus was a Jew? It makes no sense.


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