The new Missal translation: Archbishop Hart's progress report

The new Missal translation: Archbishop Hart's progress report

Michael Gilchrist

Following a similar decision by the American bishops on 15 June 2006, the Australian bishops have voted, in principle, to accept a new English translation of the Missal. The bishops of England and Wales have also voted to accept the new translation, drafted as a result of a 2001 directive by Pope John Paul II. It is a process that the whole English-speaking Catholic world has been undertaking.

The new translation will replace the current version, which was introduced in 1973.

Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, who is the Australian bishops' representative on the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), and has participated in the Commission's meetings over the past three years, told AD2000 he welcomed the new translation.

"The huge project of translation", he said, "will be a big step forward in our understanding of the sacred nature of the liturgy and in using clearer more elegant English to unfold for our people the real depth and meaning of the prayers, which were 'dumbed down' in the quest for excessive simplicity in the 70s. The Church's rich treasure of prayer and imagery will be much more evident in the new version. It has been a fascinating project and will, I believe, be a great offering to lead the people in worship. It has been a long task, but it is being done well and is worth waiting for."

Cardinal George Pell, Chairman of Vox Clara, the small group of cardinals and bishops from around the English-speaking world who advise the Vatican on the translation of the Roman Missal, echoed Archbishop Hart's sentiments.

"The new single translation for all the English speaking world", he said, "captures the theological richness of the original Latin and the English is clear, dignified and accessible. Catholics will quickly get used to it and come to love it". He added, "Finally we are seeing the fruits of years of hard and hidden work. The new translations will give a considerable boost to prayers, worship and sound teaching. They will be a blessing for the Church".

Among the changes people in the pews will encounter in two to three years' time, are "And with your spirit" instead of "And also with you" and "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" in place of "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you". During the praying of the Nicene Creed Catholics will say "I believe" instead of "We believe."

The penitential rite at the beginning of Mass will match more closely the Latin translation with "I have sinned greatly through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault" in place of "I have sinned through my fault".

Over the 30 years since the liturgical books were translated hastily into the vernacular languages there have been growing calls for making the texts of the liturgy available in an English translation which reflects the sacred purpose of worship in clear, dignified language and is an accurate translation of the Latin.

Early in May 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship published the Instruction, Liturgiam Authenticam (Authentic Liturgy), which gives the principles for translation into the local languages.

The Instruction insisted that oversight of the translation should be undertaken by the bishops of the language groups working with the Holy See. This brought about the establishment of ICEL in a new form with the bishops taking direct responsibility for the work.

Archbishop Hart has provided the following outline of the work still to be completed before the new Missal will be available.

After its first meetings in 2003 ICEL established a network of base translators in the English-speaking world and an editorial committee, chaired by Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn.

Each of the texts of the Missal is prepared in a base translation, which is then reviewed and amended by the editorial committee before presentation to the Commission for further amendment and final decision. Then texts are sent to the Conferences of Bishops for comment and decision and to the Holy See by the Conferences.

In recent months, the unchanging parts of the Missal or the "Order of Mass", having been reviewed three times by the Commission and sent to the bishops for comment, have received their final affirmative vote by the bishops of the respective countries.

Likely completion date

The remaining unchangeable prayers (the Prefaces, the additional Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation, for Children and for Special Occasions, the Solemn Blessings and Prayers over the people), together with the whole first half of the Missal (the Sundays and Weekdays) have been sent to the bishops of the world for preliminary comment and will be returned to ICEL for amendment, if necessary, and a final vote in January 2007.

Preliminary drafts of the Saints Days from January to June and half of the Commons were due to be considered by the Commission in July 2006 and if passed would go to the Bishops' Conferences for preliminary comment. ICEL would also consider the remainder of the Missal in a preliminary way in January 2007.

In this way the whole Missal will have been sent out to the bishops for preliminary comment by the middle of 2007 and will be back to ICEL at the beginning of 2008 for editing of a final version. At the earliest the Bishops' Conferences will then be invited to give their definitive vote on the first half of the Missal in 2007 and the second half of the Missal by the middle of 2008. Once this is done the individual Bishops' Conferences can apply to the Holy See for its confirmation of the translation.

Because of the detailed nature of the work and the reviews by the Bishops' Conferences, Archbishop Hart estimates that "the earliest date for a Missal being available would be the end of 2008 or the start of 2009".

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