May 27, 2022

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Reuters, one of the largest news agencies in the world, posted a story about the bi-annual Kohanic blessing performed at the Kotel (Western Wall) on Monday. The headlines described the reenactment of the ceremony from the Jewish Temples in terms used for Catholic ceremonies:

“Thousands of Jewish worshippers prayed at the Western Wall at a special mass called ‘Priestly Blessing,’ which takes place during the holiday of Passover, under heavy Israeli security,” Reuters wrote.

In a religious context, mass refers to the central liturgical rite in the Catholic Church. Though the post could have been perceived as a typographical error, an amended headline posted three hours later was even more egregious:

“At the holiday of Passover, thousands of Jews returned to the Western Wall after more than two years to pray at the Western wall at a special mass,” it read.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), a media watchdog website, quickly pointed out the error.

“Reuters, a mainstream wire service whose stories get carried in media outlets worldwide, posted a tweet referring to a gathering of Jewish worshipers at the Kotel as “a special mass,” CAMERA wrote on their Facebook page. “Is Reuters even trying anymore?”

Though those Twitter posts have since been removed, the description remains on the Reuters YouTube post.

Referring to Jewish prayer as a Catholic Mass can be understood in terms of replacement theology in which the Church replaced Judaism in the covenant with the God of Israel. In replacement theology, the Vatican and Mass replaced the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the Temple Service. At the very least, it is cultural appropriation and incredibly poor journalism. Many of the social media responses from Israeli and Jewish people expressed a feeling of being insulted.