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CURRENT ISSUE:  July 3, 2006 • VOL. 44, NO. 13 • Oakland, CA

Bishops approve new translation of Mass parts

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- In what Bishop Donald W. Trautman called “a truly important moment in liturgy in the United States,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new English translation of the Order of Mass and adopted several U.S. adaptations during a national meeting June 15 in Los Angeles.

The new translation of the main constant parts of the Mass -- penitential rite, Gloria, creed, Eucharistic prayers, Eucharistic acclamations, Our Father and other prayers and responses used daily -- will likely be introduced in about a year or two if it is approved by the Vatican, said Bishop Trautman, a Scripture scholar who heads the Diocese of Erie, Pa., and is chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy.

He said he thought the bishops would wait until they have approved -- and received Vatican confirmation of -- an entire new Roman Missal in English before implementing the new Order of Mass.

The text that the bishops approved included only the main parts of the Order of Mass, the daily prayers with which people are most familiar.

The bishops still have to receive and approve other parts of the Order of Mass, such as the prefaces, and the major portion of the Roman Missal comprising the proper prayers for each Sunday or feast throughout the year. These are still in the early stages of translation and consultation among English-speaking bishops around the world.

When the new translation of the texts the bishops adopted in Los Angeles takes effect, with possible Vatican modifications, U.S. Catholics will find that many of the familiar prayers and responses they have been using at Mass for the past 35 years or so will be changed.

After approving more than 60 amendments to the universal English translation of the Latin Order of Mass proposed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the bishops approved the revised version by a vote of 173-29. They then approved a set of American adaptations -- alternate prayers or ritual instructions not contained in the original Latin version -- by a vote of 184-8.

Although only about 80 percent of the 254 Latin-rite bishops in the country were at the Los Angeles meeting, the votes of members in attendance were more than enough to meet the two-thirds majority (170) of all the nation’s Latin bishops that was required to pass liturgical decisions.

Some of the changes people will see when the new version eventually takes effect will be:
• Whenever the priest says “The Lord be with you,” the people will respond “And with your spirit.” The current response is “And also with you.”
• In the first form of the penitential rite, the people will confess that “I have sinned greatly ... through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” In the current version, that part of the prayer is much shorter: “I have sinned through my own fault.”
• The Nicene Creed will begin “I believe” instead of “We believe” -- a translation of the Latin text instead of the original Greek text.
• During the offertory prayers, the priest will pray that “the sacrifice which is mine and yours will be acceptable” instead of the current prayer that “our sacrifice will be acceptable.”
• Before the preface, when the priest says “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” instead of saying “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” the people will respond “It is right and just.”
• The Sanctus will start “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts.” The current version says “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.”

The bishops’ actions June 15, the first day of their three-day spring meeting at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, capped years of debate within the U.S. Church and other parts of the English-speaking world over two significantly different approaches to modern-language translations of the “Missale Romanum,” the standard Latin-language version of the Roman Missal used throughout almost all of the Western or Latin-rite church.

The translation version that U.S., Canadian and other English-speaking Catholics around the world have been using since the early 1970s was based on Vatican rules issued shortly after the Second Vatican Council that encouraged relatively free translations emphasizing adaptation to forms of expression in the receiving language when the grammar or syntax of the original language is different -- what linguists call dynamic equivalence translations.

In 2001 the Vatican issued new rules requiring liturgical translations to follow the original Latin more strictly and completely -- a more literal translation approach called formal equivalence -- and the resulting new translation adheres far more closely to the normative Latin text issued by the Vatican.

In an address to the bishops before they debated and voted on the new text and American adaptations, Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, England, president of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, argued that the dynamic equivalence approach has come under increasing criticism from linguists in recent years and said that the more literal translations in many places will restore scriptural references that disappeared or were less evident in the earlier liturgy translations into English done in the dynamic equivalence style.

ICEL, a commission composed of representatives of 11 of the main English-speaking bishops’ conferences in the world, oversees common English translations of Latin liturgical texts to be presented to the bishops’ conferences for their approval. The bishops’ conferences are free to accept or amend the ICEL texts or to create their own translations, but whatever text a bishops’ conference adopts, it must ultimately meet Vatican approval before it can be issued for liturgical use in that country.

Bishop Trautman told journalists after the bishops’ vote that when the new Mass text is eventually made official in the United States “I believe it will affect the liturgical life of every Catholic.”

He predicted that the bishops will treat the occasion as “a major catechetical moment” to try to educate Catholics about the changes and to seek ways to get Catholics to understand and accept the changes in a constructive way that helps them deepen their appreciation of the liturgy.


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