Pope Francis Convenes Commission for Translation of the Missal


by Sofia Infante


Pope Francis has announced that he has created a commission to review Liturgiam authenticam, the authoritative decree that puts forth guidelines on the translation of Latin liturgical texts into English and other languages. The document was crafted in 2001 with the intention of revising liturgical documents in order to bring them into conformity with Catholic doctrine. It replaced Comme le Prevoit, the Vatican document concerning the translation of liturgical books following the Second Vatican Council. Some of the notable changes enacted by Liturgiam authenticam include bringing back “and with your spirit,” instead of “and also with you.” It replaced the “We” in the Nicene Creed to “I.” It also incorporated the three-fold self-accusations in the Penitential act, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,” in which the person strikes their breast three times. Among one of the most contentious alterations was replacing the less authentic phrase “for all” with “for many” during the consecration: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin. Do this in memory of me.”


The Vatican has not released many details regarding the commission. Pope Francis has appointed the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Arthur Roche, to be its president. He was Chairman of the International Commission for English Language in the Liturgy for 10 years and is said to be more open to questions of liturgy than Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Roche has spoken about the new Mass translation in the past. In an address to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in September 2014, he explained, “…the Holy See in its directives opted for a shift of the guiding principle of translation from that of ‘dynamic or functional equivalence’ in 1969 to the principle of ‘formal equivalence’ in 2001.” Formal equivalence seeks to preserve the form in which a phrase is uttered. Dynamic equivalence involves emphasizing the translation of the meaning over the form. Roche noted that over the last 40 years language specialists “have become more aware that the form we choose for an utterance is itself expressive of our purpose in speaking.”


The commission will also focus on the Pope’s role in preserving unity within the Church. Alongside the topic of decentralization, the commission will examine some of the faults which bishops’ congregations have found with the translation, which has been described by some as too rigid and outdated, stemming from a desire for an almost entirely literal translation from the Latin text to the vernacular. No date has been provided for the first meeting of the commission but it is reportedly said to occur soon.

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