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Divine danger - Pastors disagree with Pope’s move to alter the Lord’s Prayer to shift sin’s blame to Satan

Published:Saturday | June 8, 2019 | 12:13 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Pope Francis
Pope Francis

One local church leader has said that Pope Francis could be treading on dangerous grounds with his decision to reword a section of the Lord’s Prayer.

News emerged this week that the pontiff, who leads the worldwide 1.3 billion-strong Catholic Church, had given his approval for a change in the translation to a part of the most widely known prayer in Christianity.

Pope Francis took issue with the phrase “lead us not into temptation”, saying it implied that God – and not the Devil – led humans into sin.

His fix? “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

“Do not let me fall into temptation because it is I who fall, it is not God who throws me into temptation and then sees how I fell,” he said in a 2017 interview as he discussed the idea for a change. “A father does not do that, a father helps you to get up immediately.”

But the approved change has been stirring up strong reactions among church leaders globally.

One leading local theologian told The Gleaner that the Pope is treading on dangerous grounds if he “seeks to correct the will and purpose or the very Word of God.

“It is dangerous for any man – in whatever office, however highly placed – to believe that he can change God’s Word. It is one thing to be able to say that I can speak and my words have the same authority – I don’t believe that, but I understand the claim the Pope makes about that – but it’s another thing to say that I can correct what is in the Word,” said the Reverend Dr Garnett Roper, president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary.

Roper reasoned that there was no evidence in the original Greek text to justify the change. Instead, he said that it is translated ordinarily as “do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil” as stated in the scripture.

Roper said Pope Francis, who during his papacy has not shied away from controversy and has tackled some issues head-on, was merely exercising interpreters licence, but has not succeeded in obviating the problem.

“You have to separate the claim from the decision. So it is not possible to translate the verse accurately to say it means ‘do not let us fall into temptation’, as the Pope is here doing. The words are simple and they are clear, and the surface reading of it … ‘do no lead us into temptation’ is an accurate translation of the original language,” said Roper.

He said it is not possible to claim that the Pope’s change is an accurate translation of the words in the original language.

IMPROVING ON JESUS?

“Because the Lord’s Prayer is so sacred, does the Pope do great damage if he makes it appear that what the Lord’s Prayer is, is subject to him adding to it or improving on Jesus? The problem here is in the doctrine of the Pope speaking ex catherdra, which is to say that he is able to speak in a manner that is no different from scripture,” said Roper.

There are an estimated 50,000 Catholics in Jamaica, divided into three dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Kingston, headed by Reverend Kenneth Richards.

Richards told The Gleaner that the Pope’s decision will be adhered to by the Catholic faithful.

“If persons understand that it is the Greek translation that we are dealing with, then I don’t foresee any issues. But I think the Catholic community will accept it, given the explanation from the Pope,” he said.

Richards stated that Jamaicans should feel comfortable knowing that the changes do not in any way alter the overall meaning of the prayer, but that it gives it a more understandable rendition.

Mark Wignall, a Gleaner columnist and self-styled atheist, said the Pope’s decision was purely a response to make the verse more palatable.

“I think the Lord’s Prayer is just a nice and comforting little prayer. The fact that they are seeking to change it now allows me to believe that it all has to do with the politics that is finding itself in religion,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Kevaughn Reid of the Sacred Heart Spiritual Church of Jesus Christ International in Brompton, St Elizabeth, said that the Pope’s decision is disturbing and could cause serious disruption in local churches.

“To me, this what the Lord has spoken to – people wanting to change the Word of God. It is very disturbing and something that could shake the conviction of the belief in the Almighty God, as some people will now be questioning the entire context and truthfulness of the Bible generally,” Reid said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com