Work on the English translation of the new Roman Missal is off to an "excellent start," according to a press statement released by the Vox Clara Committee, chaired by Sydney's Cardinal George Pell. The Committee met for the fourth time from 18-20 November 2003 in the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in Rome.
The Vox Clara Committee, consisting of senior bishops from around the English-speaking world, was established in July 2001 to advise the congregation on translations of Latin liturgical texts into English, and to strengthen co-operation with episcopal conferences in this regard.
"In the course of their meeting the committee sought to advise the congregation on ways in which to expedite the completion of an English-language edition of the Missale Romanum, 'editio typica tertia'," said the press statement.
It continued: "The committee heard reports concerning the 23 October 2003 meeting in Rome of Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation, with the presidents of English-speaking conferences of bishops, the recent approval of the statutes of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) by the congregation, and ICEL's plans for the translation of the Missale Romanum.
"Having examined sample ICEL translations from the Missale Romanum, the committee expressed its gratitude for the excellent start made by the mixed commission in translating the Missale Romanum in an English style which is in conformity with the spirit and the specific provisions of the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, approved by the Holy Father on 20 March 2001.
"The committee, likewise, made numerous recommendations to the congregation in regard to specific strategies by which all parties might focus more closely on the completion of the Roman Missal for the English-speaking world. These strategies involved processes for the review of translations of the Roman Missal in segments by conferences of bishops and the Holy See, the development of explanatory materials, the timetable for the completion of the Roman Missal, and the relationship of the Roman Missal to other ICEL projects."
The Vatican's immediate concern is to see the early completion of a suitable English translation of the new Roman Missal which was officially released in Latin in March 2002. The Missal's General Instruction (GIRM), setting out its liturgical norms, has been translated, with Rome approving a US-adapted version in March 2003, in advance of the rest of the text.
An English translation of the new Missal presently being prepared by the restructured ICEL is expected to be ready for publication within two years, according to a report by Helen Hull Hitchcock in the November 2003 Adoremus Bulletin.
Earlier, new statutes to govern the work of ICEL had been approved by the Holy See and sent to bishops on 17 October 2003, less than a week before what Mrs Hitchcock called "a highly unusual meeting at the Vatican" which "helped pave the way for the English translation of the new Roman Missal".
The participants in this key meeting on 23 October, convened by Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW), were bishops who are presidents and heads of liturgy committees of English-speaking national conferences, along with CDW officials.
The Vatican meeting focused principally on issues of liturgical translation, including questions that surfaced during the four years that the ICEL Statutes were undergoing revision. The bishops reviewed the functions of ICEL, its relationship to the Holy See, and relevant aspects of Liturgiam Authenticam.
An additional concern has been the need for principles of translation to ensure accurate Scripture texts for liturgical use. Liturgiam Authenticam recommended that "there be a single translation of the liturgical books for each vernacular language, brought about by means of co-ordination among the Bishops of those regions where the same language is spoken.
"In the case of the Order of Mass and those parts of the Sacred Liturgy that call for the direct participation of the people, a single translation should exist in a given language, unless a different provision is made in individual cases".
Helen Hull Hitchcock concluded her assessment of progress on the Missal translation: "Are we at last coming to the end of the long, sometimes tortuous journey through the translation jungles that arose during the revision of liturgical books? All signals point to this. We can, at last, look forward with some confidence to an accurate and noble English translation that is truly worthy of the celebration of Holy Mass.
"One of the welcome changes of having a relatively permanent translation of the English Missal is that we may at last be able to dispose of the 'disposable worship aids' (or 'missalettes'), and replace them with real books - for the first time in most people's memory ...
"Now that ICEL and the bishops and the Vatican seem to have reached a new accord, will there be clear sailing with the authentic reform of the liturgy now? Probably not, for changing course takes time, and much confusion remains. But real progress toward the promised 'new era of liturgical renewal' has been made. The goals of translation are clearly laid out in the carefully crafted Instruction, Liturgiam authenticam; and signal inspiration and encouragement is found in the encyclical on the Mass, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. These two key Vatican documents will help to keep a clear focus and to chart a steady course".