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pope gives approval to new English Mass translation

Last week the Vatican approved a new English translation of the Mass and its associated prayers and texts.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke to Vox Clara, chaired by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, the special committee of Catholic bishops and consultants from English-speaking countries convened to assist with the translation. The pope said, “I welcome the news that the English translation of the Roman Missal will soon be ready for publication, so that the texts you have worked so hard to prepare may be proclaimed in the liturgy that is celebrated across the anglophone world. Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people,” Benedict told them.

He also realised, “many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly 40 years of continuous use of the previous translation. The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped.” The new translation could provoke “confusion or bewilderment” among worshippers if not “introduced with due sensitivity,” the Pope warned.

It appears that the changes will not be implemented this year.

Two months ago I wrote this about the impending change.

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11 thoughts on “pope gives approval to new English Mass translation”

  1. I know that many in the Roman Catholic Church have been awaiting this. It will be very interesting to see what impact the reopening of doctrinal debate that is likely to follow will have on the future theological direction of the denomination. It is very interesting to note that when it is introduced many Roman Catholics will feel more at home within the Anglo-Catholic denomination where the service is likely to remain modelled on the current Roman Rite for quite some time.

  2. Do you have any comment on the translation itself? It is interesting to see how it often goes from simple to complex. For example the Sanctus was simply “Holy, Holy, Holy…” and the new translation adds “Lord God of Sabaoth.” Any insight into the reason for seemingly backtracking to greater complexity? <— wrote this before I read the linked post.

    Also, where might I find the "original" liturgy upon which the current and the new translations are based? Are Anglican (and other traditions') liturgies derived from a common Latin text?

  3. Joel, the history of the Sanctus, which you refer to (Holy, Holy, Holy,…) is very complex, and certainly well before any shared Latin text. It is in the Egyptian Liturgy of Serapion (4th Century), and can be traced back to Isaiah. The translation of “Sabaoth” has always been an issue.

  4. As a Roman Catholic, I am very much looking forward to the change that is coming. I am not in the slightest bit intimidated by it, for it is just a more accurate translation of the original Latin. The Mass I go to already uses a great deal of Latin (ie, the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Psalms, the Creed, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei and the the Our Father are all sung in Latin (I think that’s it, hopefully I haven’t missed any out).

    In conjunction with the new texts, hopefully the postures during the Mass will be tidied up as well. Some of the postures have become very slack over the years, in particular anything to do with genuflecting.

    Even something as simple as a joint genuflection by the priest and the altar servers at the beginning and the end of the Mass has the most incredible effect – if done. And mostly it’s just a bow.

    This new translation seems to be moving at the speed of a black hole, the closer you get to it, the slower everything gets.

    1. Thanks Lucia, I will be following how the change goes as best I can. By the way the Kyrie, of course, is Greek, not Latin. It would make for an interesting discussion why your parish doesn’t sing Kyrie translated into Latin 🙂

  5. Hi Bosco,

    Yeah, I realised this morning as I was sitting waiting for Mass to start that the Kyrie was Greek. It’s very obvious when sung, but I tend to forget when talking about the Mass in general to separate it out.

    As for why, apart from the Kyrie sounding better in Greek, I would guess that it’s just tradition?

    1. In liturgy, Lucia, we regularly preserve inherited traditions in the original language. We do not translate Amen, Alleluia, or Hosanna, for example. The Kyries have a complex history, it was used as an acclamation to greet an emperor and so is similar in intent to Hosanna. It was the response in the petitions of a litany by the fourth century and spread as such to the West in the fifth century – in the Greek form. Gelasius I placed such a litany at the start of the Eucharist and it kept evolving until the contentinental and Roman reformers settled on the ninefold Kyrie without tropes in the sixteenth century. Anglicans have the Kyries in this Greek form in their vernacular liturgies. You will know that Anglicans have always been more careful in the translations and so there will now be greater realisation that we are praying the same collects as Roman Catholic translations will become closer to the Anglican ones. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has always been a good source of understanding, particular of our shared collect inheritance.

  6. I have read what is available for sample text on the web. I find it a strange mix. In some areas the english is closer to the latin; however, in others there are heavy theological words tucked in that the average american/new american isn’t not going to understand. My main gripe is with the use of the pronoun “you”. English has two forms: thee for informal or singular usage and you for formal or plural usage. The response “and with thy spirit” is a correct translation, whereas “and with your spirit” is not. Why don’t we just use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?

    I concur with the prior comment. I think there will be another group tha float off to be with the Anglicans. Especially, now that the Anglicans in the US have finally and formally split completely with the Progressive Episcopalians.

  7. As someone who is partially sighted, getting a Large Print Missal is virtually impossible!
    The basic Mass was read to me and transcribed into a format I could see and use effectively.
    ** Where is the final version of the New English Text? I have an old ‘prototype’ which I’ve transcribed – but I need the formal version.
    > After all I don’t want to say aloud something wrong.. like, “and also with you” 😉
    I like the new version, (that I know about) but it will take time to get used to.
    I HOPE partially sighted people are not left out again!

  8. Why so much manpower, resources and time spent on producing a new translation of the Mass Liturgy in Enlish? Why not concentrate on educating not only the laity but above all and first of all the clergy, especially the priests who are the celebrants of the Mass, to understand,appreciate, respect and value deeply the meanings and nature of the Mass? The problem of so many different versions in English could be better solved with one using simple English.

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