A new 1,320-page edition of the Roman Missal ("editio typica") was published in Rome at the end of March.
The Roman Missal is the Church's official document which contains authorised prayers and texts for the liturgy of the Roman rite. The Latin-language volume constitutes the basis for any subsequent translations of the Missal into the world's vernacular languages.
It was the third authoritative version to be published since Vatican II and the result of ten years' work. Earlier editions were published in 1969 and 1975.
This edition was approved by Pope John Paul II in January 2000, with the 100-page introduction containing the rubrics for liturgical celebrations published in August 2000. In September of that year, Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, predicted the full Missal would be in print by Christmas 2000. The subsequent delay was due in part to the difficulty of printing the notation for the Gregorian chants that are included.
Cardinal Medina Estevez of the Congregation for Divine Worship pointed out during the news conference that with its promulgation, the new Roman Missal is now in force as the official standard for the liturgy in Latin and is being sent to bishops' conferences throughout the world to be translated into vernacular languages. These translations must then be approved by the Holy See before they come into force.
Archbishop Tamburrino discussed the new Missal's contents in more detail in a statement to Vatican Radio following the presentation ceremony.
"It is a text that is in continuity with the Missal that was reformed following Vatican Council II and promulgated by Paul VI," he said. "Obviously, after ten years, the Missal has undergone some touching up, especially in the calendar of saints« days, as 16 feasts have been introduced - or rather memorials - in the universal calendar of the Church; hence, they had to be included in the Missal ... These 16 memorials are spread over the year, and refer especially to saints and patrons."
The rest of the changes, he added, were "small necessary touch- ups, following the promulgation of the Varietates Legitimae instruction which provided for the possibility of some adaptations, particularly in mission areas." The Vatican congregation had published that instruction in January 1994. "Moreover," he concluded, "what was allowed in some national missals has been integrated in the ordinary of the missal, namely, the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation, and Eucharistic Prayers for different needs."
The Congregation for Divine Worship has meanwhile sent a note to bishops explaining that No 283 of the new Missal "contains various dispositions that extend the possibility to distribute Holy Communion under both species, only in the ambit of the Roman rite." It would be up to a diocesan bishop to "issue norms" on Communion under both species, without waiting for instructions from the episcopal conference. This note did not go into details on how the Precious Blood should be distributed during Communion.
Reception of Communion under both species had been previously regulated by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (No 242) which gave authority to episcopal conferences to decide the extension and conditions in which bishops could allow Communion under both species - on special occasions, for the spiritual life of any community or group of faithful.
During the media presentation, Cardinal Medina Estevez explained that the new Missal not only contained some new prayers but allowed for adaptation of the liturgy to the circumstances of different countries, at the discretion of bishops' conferences, while setting out principles to guide and limit any such adaptation. Any change, he said, should be "an exception," and introduced only for "the spiritual good of the individual churches, safeguarding the substantial unity of the Roman rite."
Also, during the 25 years since the last official edition, the cardinal pointed out, there have been 300 new saints added to the canon. In some cases, these saints take on special importance for the Church in particular areas. For example, he cited the Chinese martyrs, as well as St Charbel Makhluf, a Lebanese Maronite, and St Josephine Bakhita, a former slave from Sudan. Sts Edith Stein, Brigitte of Sweden, and Catherine of Siena, he added, are now honoured as patrons of Europe.
In a media release dated 4 April to announce publication of the "3rd edition of the Latin Missal", Australia's National Liturgical Commission outlined the next step of the process:
"The task of translating this document is already in hand by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy [ICEL] and it is expected that a text will be forwarded to Rome for approval before the end of this year. It will be a matter of great satisfaction when all the work is complete and a new English edition is available for use by the Church in Australia."
The wait will have been worthwhile, since there is every prospect of a much-improved English translation, following Rome's closer scrutiny of the work of ICEL and the release of Liturgiam Authenticam, which sets out the principles for sound vernacular translation.
Meanwhile, any parish wishing to celebrate the new Mass in Latin - as the Holy Father does regularly - need not wait for the English translation be be approved. The new 2002 Roman Missal is already available for use with the Church's full approval.