After reading this article, it would be helpful to read the works of Romano Guardini in regard to the liturgical reforms and also Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on the subject. Both were on the cutting edge of making the liturgy more meaningful and inspiring during their earlier life in Germany. In many ways, they were the forerunners of the liturgical renewal of Vatican II.
In many ways, they helped to restructure the liturgy from “bottom up.”
A lengthy section from Liturgia Authenicam has been included at the bottom of this article to better understand what the liturgical changes will entail.
Battle lines in the liturgy wars
By Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter
It would be difficult to find two more incongruous words to utter in the same phrase than “liturgy” and “war.” Yet those are the terms that have been widely used in the English-speaking world to discuss a struggle that has dominated much of the Catholic community’s life since the Second Vatican Council, that remarkable series of meetings of the world’s bishops that occurred 1962 through 1965.
Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series exploring the long-standing “liturgy wars” and how they shape today’s understanding of the Second Vatican Council.
It would be difficult to find two more incongruous words to utter in the same phrase than “liturgy” and “war.” Yet those are the terms that have been widely used in the English-speaking world to discuss a struggle that has dominated much of the Catholic community’s life since the Second Vatican Council, that remarkable series of meetings of the world’s bishops that occurred 1962 through 1965.
With recent decisions on translations of the prayers we pray during Mass, with Vatican officials openly urging a “reform of the reform,” and with a pope who has made significant overtures to groups within the church who are eager to restore Latin as well as some of the more elaborate manifestations of episcopal office, the question becomes: Are the liturgy wars at an end stage?
Arguably, no other single issue has occupied as much of our time and energy, nor caused deeper divisions, than the liturgy wars. And with good reason.
Liturgy, the central act of worship, embodies the genetic code of the community. It holds the key to what we think about God; about Christ’s action in human history; about our relationship to the Trinity; about our relationship to each other; about the relationship between ordained and lay, between the community and the wider world. In the big picture, a lot hinges on the way we approach liturgy.
The council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is so important, said Jesuit historian Fr. John O’Malley, because liturgy “is at the heart of what we do.” He considers the recent attempts to change the sense of the liturgical renewal from the top down a serious matter. “In 1985,” he said in a phone interview with NCR, “the synod of bishops said of those four constitutions [of the Second Vatican Council], those are the standards against which all the other documents are to be interpreted. Once you start to play with one of those, you’re playing with everything.”
The state of the liturgy debate can also be a leading indicator of which view is prevailing in the equally long and divisive battle over how to interpret Vatican II a half century after Pope John XXIII first conceived the idea of the council and 45 years after it ended.
How the changes in liturgy were arrived at in the four decades since the council is significant, because the process speaks a great deal about whose articulation of the elusive “spirit of the council” is in ascendancy. By most indications, the way the liturgy has been changed in recent years would suggest that those who hoped that the pervasive themes of collegiality and dialogue evident in the Vatican II documents would lead to a change in the style of church governance have been on the defensive for a long time and may now be in full retreat.
The story of the liturgy battles, while often conducted in rigorous intellectual theological terms, is also a story of ecclesiastical politics played out on an international stage. It is telling to note, also, that the lines of battle are not joined solely along liberal-conservative or pro-and anti-reform boundaries. While that may be the case generally, one of the earliest giants of the modern liturgical movement also voiced, 30 years after the reforms were enacted, some of the same criticisms leveled today by those who opposed the reforms from the beginning.
Liturgy set the tone
When the assembled bishops of the world ratified the first document of the Second Vatican Council on Nov. 22, 1963, the groundbreaking Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the tone and direction of the rest of the council’s session was irrevocably set. It is not overstatement to say that with that document, the church as the modern world knew it was changed forever.
For even with the “reform of the reform” in motion, history has amply recorded what followed the council:
Altars were turned so the priest faces the people;
Communion rails disappeared;
The Eucharist was distributed to standing, rather than kneeling, communicants;
Latin was replaced the world over by languages spoken by the people;
The liturgy was seen as intimately connected to what takes place outside the sanctuary walls,
particularly regarding issues of social justice;
In a deeper change, an understanding of Christ’s humanity took its place in a profound way in
the Mass alongside reverence for the divinity of Christ, and there was a shift in emphasis
from a vertical relationship with God to a more horizontal relationship to God in the
Perhaps most important for average churchgoers, everyone became participants, and not
simply passive observers, in the eucharistic celebration.
As described by the late Benedictine Fr. Godfrey Diekmann of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., one of 55 international liturgists who helped write the document, “It was a Magna Carta of the laity.”
It might be reasonable to presume that with the world’s bishops and the pope signing off on liturgical reform, all would be set for the foreseeable future. But the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, a solemn pronouncement of the council, was also a political document. Its implications went far beyond what prayers people would say and when they would stand and kneel, or what motions a priest would make during the ritual.
The further-reaching implications had to do with ecclesiology, what kind of church we were becoming. It was clear in 1963 to then-Fr. Joseph Ratzinger what was at stake with the newly affirmed document. In what appear approving tones, Ratzinger wrote of the “decentralization of liturgical decision-making.”
“The first chapter of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy contains a statement that represents for the Latin church a fundamental innovation,” he wrote, and that innovation was a new independent authority for national conferences of bishops.
“Perhaps one could say that this small paragraph, which for the first time assigns to the conferences of bishops their own canonical authority, has more significance for the theology of the episcopacy and for the long-desired strengthening of episcopal power than anything in the Constitution on the Church itself,” wrote Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI. It was a pronouncement of decentralized church authority on steroids.
If strengthening of episcopal power was much desired then, time has changed that opinion. During the quarter of a century of John Paul II’s papacy and continuing into Benedict’s, quite the opposite has been true. John Paul, often using the congregations on doctrine and liturgy, especially clipped the wings and authority of national conferences, and a favorite target was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. One of the mechanisms for trimming its authority was rejection of liturgical texts previously approved by the conference.
U.S. resistance to Rome’s interference abated over time as John Paul continued to appoint bishops of unquestioning loyalty to his wishes and point of view.
It is difficult to measure the accumulated anger and disappointment among many liturgical experts who had enthusiastically embraced the changes brought by the council over what one Vatican official recently termed “the renewal of the renewal.” The new translations being imposed on the English-speaking Catholic world have recently drawn a lot of attention because of objections to awkward phrasing and ungrammatical construction aimed at restoring reverence and awe in the liturgy.
Yet it must be noted that even Diekmann, as early as 1993, voiced concern that “in the liturgical movement, we have lost the sense of mystery, of the sacred.” While rejecting such “false props” as Latin, he said that the prior 30 years had seen an overemphasis on God as immanent and loving, creating at times a “feel-good” religion. He recommended restoration of “kneeling, genuflecting, bowing or even lying prostrate on the floor” as gestures that express “making ourselves small before God.”
Those are concerns identical in many ways to the objections voiced by many who opposed the reforms from the start. The question remains how to find common cause and make change. It would appear that the manner in which change has occurred is cause for perhaps even a deeper divide, and in some minds, an even deeper betrayal of Vatican II, than the changes themselves.
Historian O’Malley referred to a canon law principle that essentially says, “An abuse doesn’t mean you change what you’re doing. You try to correct those who are abusing things.”
More to the point, he said the papacy should be a mediating force among different points of view. Instead, he said, “the professional liturgists have been elbowed out. This is your research branch. Management should listen to the research branch.”
O’Malley’s contribution to the recent book Vatican II: Did Anything Happen? makes a detailed case for how dramatically different the council was in its language, purpose, and particularly its attention to collegiality and dialogue. It was the first council that did not address a crisis; it also did not issue anathemas. And it paid unusual attention to the laity.
The Georgetown University professor termed the way the “reform of the reform” is being conducted a “partisan” attempt. “They don’t listen to liturgists and they don’t listen to local communities,” he said in an interview.
Indeed, while the council set up a process for doing translations of sacred texts and prayers for worship, a widely consultative process that went on under the guidance of English-speaking bishops from around the world and liturgical and scriptural experts for more than 30 years, the reform of the reform began in earnest in a secret Vatican meeting in 1997. That year, as NCR’s John L. Allen Jr. reported at the time, 11 men met in secret in the Vatican “to overhaul the American lectionary, the collection of scripture readings authorized for use in the Mass. Short-circuiting a six-year debate over ‘inclusive language’ by retaining many of the most controversial uses of masculine vocabulary, and revamping texts approved by the U.S. bishops, this group decided how the Bible will sound in the American church.
“Powers in Rome handpicked a small group of men who in two weeks undid work that had taken dozens of years,” Allen continued.
In ensuing years the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, known as ICEL, which was created at the Second Vatican Council as a joint project of 11 English-speaking bishops’ conferences and not under control of the Vatican, has essentially been supplanted by a Vatican-controlled agency, the Vox Clara Committee, with a mandate to advise the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on English translations.
ICEL, meanwhile, under great pressure from the Vatican, has revised its statutes and overhauled personnel to be more in line with Vatican wishes and a 2001 Vatican document, Liturgiam Authenticam.
In late January, Vox Clara released a statement saying its work on a new English translation of the Roman Missal, the book of prayers used at Mass, is nearly complete. When it goes into use, as expected, in Advent 2011, a major battle, at least, in the liturgy wars will have been won.
Can the factions that fought, sometimes bitterly, come together in the future in the kind of unity the liturgy begs? Benedictine Sr. Mary Collins, a liturgist and professor emeritus at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said, “I do think there needs to be a change of heart running through the whole ecclesial body.” A reality in the church today, she said, “is that we are still in the winners-and-losers game. I think unless the church can get beyond that, we can’t tell ourselves we’re responding to the call of the Holy Spirit.”
[Tom Roberts is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.]
10. To be considered first of all is the choice of the languages that it will be permissible to put into use in liturgical celebrations. It is appropriate that there be elaborated in each territory a pastoral plan that takes account of the spoken languages there in use, with a distinction being made between languages which the people spontaneously speak and those which, not being used for natural communication in pastoral activity, merely remain the object of cultural interest. In considering and drafting such a plan, due caution should be exercised lest the faithful be fragmented into small groups by means of the selection of vernacular languages to be introduced into liturgical use, with the consequent danger of fomenting civil discord, to the detriment of the unity of peoples as well as of the unity of the particular Churches and the Church universal.
On the Choice of Vernacular Languages To Be Introduced Into Liturgical Use
11. In this plan, a clear distinction is to be made also between those languages, on the one hand, that are used universally in the territory for pastoral communication, and those, on the other hand, that are to be used in the Sacred Liturgy. In drawing up the plan, it will be necessary to take account also of the question of the resources necessary for supporting the use of a given language, such as the number of priests, deacons and lay collaborators capable of using the language, in addition to the number of experts and those trained for and capable of preparing translations of all of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite in accord with the principles enunciated here. Also to be considered are the financial and technical resources necessary for preparing translations and printing books truly worthy of liturgical use.
12. Within the liturgical sphere, moreover, a distinction necessarily arises between languages and dialects. In particular, dialects that do not support common academic and cultural formation cannot be taken into full liturgical use, since they lack that stability and breadth that would be required for their being liturgical languages on a broader scale. In any event, the number of individual liturgical languages is not to be increased too greatly. This latter is necessary so that a certain unity of language may be fostered within the boundaries of one and the same nation.
13. Moreover, the fact that a language is not introduced into full liturgical use does not mean that it is thereby altogether excluded from the Liturgy. It may be used, at least occasionally, in the Prayer of the Faithful, in the sung texts, in the invitations or instructions given to the people, or in parts of the homily, especially if the language is proper to some of Christ’s faithful who are in attendance. Nevertheless, it is always possible to use either the Latin language or another language that is widely used in that country, even if perhaps it may not be the language of all – or even of a majority – of the Christian faithful taking part, provided that discord among the faithful be avoided.
14. Since the introduction of languages into liturgical use by the Church may actually affect the development of the language itself and may even be determinative in its regard, care is to be taken to promote those languages which – even while perhaps lacking a long literary tradition – seem capable of being employed by a greater number of persons. It is necessary to avoid any fragmentation of dialects, especially at the moment when a given dialect may be passing from spoken to written form. Instead, care should be taken to foster and to develop forms of speech that are common to human communities.
15. It will be the responsibility of the Conference of Bishops to determine which of the prevailing languages are to be introduced into full or partial liturgical use in its territory. Their decisions require the recognitio of the Apostolic See before the work of translation is undertaken in any way. Before giving its decision on this matter, the Conference of Bishops should not omit to seek the written opinion of experts and other collaborators in the work; these opinions, together with the other acts, are to be sent in written form to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in addition to the relatio mentioned below, in art. n. 16.
16. As regards the decision of the Conference of Bishops for the introduction of a vernacular language into liturgical use, the following are to be observed (cf. n. 79):
a) For the legitimate passage of decrees, a two-thirds vote by secret ballot is required on the part of those in the Conference of Bishops who have the right to cast a deliberative vote;
b) All of the acts to be examined by the Apostolic See, prepared in duplicate, signed by the President and Secretary of the Conference and duly affixed with its seal, are to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In these acts are to be contained the following:
i) the names of the Bishops, or of those equivalent to them in law, who were present at the meeting,
ii) a report of the proceedings, which should contain the outcome of the votes pertaining to the individual decrees, including the number of those in favor, the number opposed, and the number abstaining;
iii) a clear exposition of the individual parts of the Liturgy into which the decision has been made to introduce the vernacular language;
c) In the relatio is to be included a clear explanation of the language involved, as well as the reasons for which the proposal has been made to introduce it into liturgical use.
17. As for the use of “artificial” languages, proposed from time to time, the approval of texts as well as the granting of permission for their use in liturgical celebrations is strictly reserved to the Holy See. This faculty will be granted only for particular circumstances and for the pastoral good of the faithful, after consultation with the Bishops principally involved.
18. In celebrations for speakers of a foreign language, such as visitors, migrants, pilgrims, etc., it is permissible, with the consent of the diocesan Bishop, to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy in a vernacular language known to these people, using a liturgical book already approved by the competent authority with the subsequent recognitio of the Apostolic See. If such celebrations recur with some frequency, the diocesan Bishop is to send a brief report to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, describing the circumstances, the number of participants, and the editions used.
ON THE TRANSLATION OF LITURGICAL TEXTS
INTO VERNACULAR LANGUAGES
1. General principles applicable to all translation
19. The words of the Sacred Scriptures, as well as the other words spoken in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of the Sacraments, are not intended primarily to be a sort of mirror of the interior dispositions of the faithful; rather, they express truths that transcend the limits of time and space. Indeed, by means of these words God speaks continually with the Spouse of his beloved Son, the Holy Spirit leads the Christian faithful into all truth and causes the word of Christ to dwell abundantly within them, and the Church perpetuates and transmits all that she herself is and all that she believes, even as she offers the prayers of all the faithful to God, through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
20. The Latin liturgical texts of the Roman Rite, while drawing on centuries of ecclesial experience in transmitting the faith of the Church received from the Fathers, are themselves the fruit of the liturgical renewal, just recently brought forth. In order that such a rich patrimony may be preserved and passed on through the centuries, it is to be kept in mind from the beginning that the translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.
21. Especially in the translations intended for peoples recently brought to the Christian Faith, fidelity and exactness with respect to the original texts may themselves sometimes require that words already in current usage be employed in new ways, that new words or expressions be coined, that terms in the original text be transliterated or adapted to the pronunciation of the vernacular language, or that figures of speech be used which convey in an integral manner the content of the Latin expression even while being verbally or syntactically different from it. Such measures, especially those of greater moment, are to be submitted to the discussion of all the Bishops involved before being inserted into the definitive draft. In particular, caution should be exercised in introducing words drawn from non-Christian religions.
22. Adaptations of the texts according to articles 37-40 of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium are to be considered on the basis of true cultural or pastoral necessity, and should not be proposed out of a mere desire for novelty or variety, nor as a way of supplementing or changing the theological content of the editiones typicae; rather, they are to be governed by the norms and procedures contained in the above-mentioned Instruction Varietates legitimae. Accordingly, translations into vernacular languages that are sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the recognitio are to contain, in addition to the translation itself and any adaptations foreseen explicitly in the editiones typicae, only adaptations or modifications for which prior written consent has been obtained from the same Dicastery.
23. In the translation of texts of ecclesiastical composition, while it is useful with the assistance of historical and other scientific tools to consult a source that may have been discovered for the same text, nevertheless it is always the text of the Latin editio typica itself that is to be translated.
Whenever the biblical or liturgical text preserves words taken from other ancient languages (as, for example, the words Alleluia and Amen, the Aramaic words contained in the New Testament, the Greek words drawn from the Trisagion which are recited in the Improperia of Good Friday, and the Kyrie eleison of the Order of Mass, as well as many proper names) consideration should be given to preserving the same words in the new vernacular translation, at least as one option among others. Indeed, a careful respect for the original text will sometimes require that this be done.
24. Furthermore, it is not permissible that the translations be produced from other translations already made into other languages; rather, the new translations must be made directly from the original texts, namely the Latin, as regards the texts of ecclesiastical composition, or the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, as the case may be, as regards the texts of Sacred Scripture.  Furthermore, in the preparation of these translations for liturgical use, the Nova Vulgata Editio, promulgated by the Apostolic See, is normally to be consulted as an auxiliary tool, in a manner described elsewhere in this Instruction, in order to maintain the tradition of interpretation that is proper to the Latin Liturgy.
25. So that the content of the original texts may be evident and comprehensible even to the faithful who lack any special intellectual formation, the translations should be characterized by a kind of language which is easily understandable, yet which at the same time preserves these texts’ dignity, beauty, and doctrinal precision. By means of words of praise and adoration that foster reverence and gratitude in the face of God’s majesty, his power, his mercy and his transcendent nature, the translations will respond to the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people of our own time, while contributing also to the dignity and beauty of the liturgical celebration itself.
26. The liturgical texts’ character as a very powerful instrument for instilling in the lives of the Christian faithful the elements of faith and Christian morality, is to be maintained in the translations with the utmost solicitude. The translation, furthermore, must always be in accord with sound doctrine.
27. Even if expressions should be avoided which hinder comprehension because of their excessively unusual or awkward nature, the liturgical texts should be considered as the voice of the Church at prayer, rather than of only particular congregations or individuals; thus, they should be free of an overly servile adherence to prevailing modes of expression. If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities. Indeed, it will be seen that the observance of the principles set forth in this Instruction will contribute to the gradual development, in each vernacular, of a sacred style that will come to be recognized as proper to liturgical language. Thus it may happen that a certain manner of speech which has come to be considered somewhat obsolete in daily usage may continue to be maintained in the liturgical context. In translating biblical passages where seemingly inelegant words or expressions are used, a hasty tendency to sanitize this characteristic is likewise to be avoided. These principles, in fact, should free the Liturgy from the necessity of frequent revisions when modes of expression may have passed out of popular usage.
28. The Sacred Liturgy engages not only man’s intellect, but the whole person, who is the “subject” of full and conscious participation in the liturgical celebration. Translators should therefore allow the signs and images of the texts, as well as the ritual actions, to speak for themselves; they should not attempt to render too explicit that which is implicit in the original texts. For the same reason, the addition of explanatory texts not contained in the editio typica is to be prudently avoided. Consideration should also be given to including in the vernacular editions at least some texts in the Latin language, especially those from the priceless treasury of Gregorian chant, which the Church recognizes as proper to the Roman Liturgy, and which, all other things being equal, is to be given pride of place in liturgical celebrations. Such chant, indeed, has a great power to lift the human spirit to heavenly realities.
29. It is the task of the homily and of catechesis to set forth the meaning of the liturgical texts, illuminating with precision the Church’s understanding regarding the members of particular Churches or ecclesial communities separated from full communion with the Catholic Church and those of Jewish communities, as well as adherents of other religions – and likewise, her understanding of the dignity and equality of all men. Similarly, it is the task of catechists or of the homilist to transmit that right interpretation of the texts that excludes any prejudice or unjust discrimination on the basis of persons, gender, social condition, race or other criteria, which has no foundation at all in the texts of the Sacred Liturgy. Although considerations such as these may sometimes help one in choosing among various translations of a certain expression, they are not to be considered reasons for altering either a biblical text or a liturgical text that has been duly promulgated.
30. In many languages there exist nouns and pronouns denoting both genders, masculine and feminine, together in a single term. The insistence that such a usage should be changed is not necessarily to be regarded as the effect or the manifestation of an authentic development of the language as such. Even if it may be necessary by means of catechesis to ensure that such words continue to be understood in the “inclusive” sense just described, it may not be possible to employ different words in the translations themselves without detriment to the precise intended meaning of the text, the correlation of its various words or expressions, or its aesthetic qualities. When the original text, for example, employs a single term in expressing the interplay between the individual and the universality and unity of the human family or community (such as the Hebrew word ’adam, the Greek anthropos, or the Latin homo), this property of the language of the original text should be maintained in the translation. Just as has occurred at other times in history, the Church herself must freely decide upon the system of language that will serve her doctrinal mission most effectively, and should not be subject to externally imposed linguistic norms that are detrimental to that mission.
31. In particular: to be avoided is the systematic resort to imprudent solutions such as a mechanical substitution of words, the transition from the singular to the plural, the splitting of a unitary collective term into masculine and feminine parts, or the introduction of impersonal or abstract words, all of which may impede the communication of the true and integral sense of a word or an expression in the original text. Such measures introduce theological and anthropological problems into the translation. Some particular norms are the following:
a) In referring to almighty God or the individual persons of the Most Holy Trinity, the truth of tradition as well as the established gender usage of each respective language are to be maintained.
b) Particular care is to be taken to ensure that the fixed expression “Son of Man” be rendered faithfully and exactly. The great Christological and typological significance of this expression requires that there should also be employed throughout the translation a rule of language that will ensure that the fixed expression remain comprehensible in the context of the whole translation.
c) The term “fathers”, found in many biblical passages and liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition, is to be rendered by the corresponding masculine word into vernacular languages insofar as it may be seen to refer to the Patriarchs or the kings of the chosen people in the Old Testament, or to the Fathers of the Church.
d) Insofar as possible in a given vernacular language, the use of the feminine pronoun, rather than the neuter, is to be maintained in referring to the Church.
e) Words which express consanguinity or other important types of relationship, such as “brother”, “sister”, etc., which are clearly masculine or feminine by virtue of the context, are to be maintained as such in the translation.
f) The grammatical gender of angels, demons, and pagan gods or goddesses, according to the original texts, is to be maintained in the vernacular language insofar as possible.
g) In all these matters it will be necessary to remain attentive to the principles set forth above, in nn. 27 and 29.
32. The translation should not restrict the full sense of the original text within narrower limits. To be avoided on this account are expressions characteristic of commercial publicity, political or ideological programs, passing fashions, and those which are subject to regional variations or ambiguities in meaning. Academic style manuals or similar works, since they sometimes give way to such tendencies, are not to be considered standards for liturgical translation. On the other hand, works that are commonly considered “classics” in a given vernacular language may prove useful in providing a suitable standard for its vocabulary and usage.
33. The use of capitalization in the liturgical texts of the Latin editiones typicae as well as in the liturgical translation of the Sacred Scriptures, for honorific or otherwise theologically significant reasons, is to be retained in the vernacular language at least insofar as the structure of a given language permits.
2. Other norms pertaining to the translation of the Sacred Scriptures and the preparation of Lectionaries
34. It is preferable that a version of the Sacred Scriptures be prepared in accordance with the principles of sound exegesis and of high literary quality, but also with a view to the particular exigencies of liturgical use as regards style, the selection of words, and the selection from among different possible interpretations.
35. Wherever no such version of the Sacred Scriptures exists in a given language, it will be necessary to use a previously prepared version, while modifying the translation wherever appropriate so that it may be suitable for use in the liturgical context according to the principles set forth in this Instruction.
36. In order that the faithful may be able to commit to memory at least the more important texts of the Sacred Scriptures and be formed by them even in their private prayer, it is of the greatest importance that the translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for liturgical use be characterized by a certain uniformity and stability, such that in every territory there should exist only one approved translation, which will be employed in all parts of the various liturgical books. This stability is especially to be desired in the translation of the Sacred Books of more frequent use, such as the Psalter, which is the fundamental prayer book of the Christian people. The Conferences of Bishops are strongly encouraged to provide for the commissioning and publication in their territories of an integral translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for the private study and reading of the faithful, which corresponds in every part to the text that is used in the Sacred Liturgy.
37. If the biblical translation from which the Lectionary is composed exhibits readings that differ from those set forth in the Latin liturgical text, it should be borne in mind that the Nova Vulgata Editio is the point of reference as regards the delineation of the canonical text. Thus, in the translation of the deuterocanonical books and wherever else there may exist varying manuscript traditions, the liturgical translation must be prepared in accordance with the same manuscript tradition that the Nova Vulgata has followed. If a previously prepared translation reflects a choice that departs from that which is found in the Nova Vulgata Editio as regards the underlying textual tradition, the order of verses, or similar factors, the discrepancy needs to be remedied in the preparation of any Lectionary so that conformity with the Latin liturgical text may be maintained. In preparing new translations, it would be helpful, though not obligatory, that the numbering of the verses also follow that of the same text as closely as possible.
38. It is often permissible that a variant reading of a verse be used, on the basis of critical editions and upon the recommendation of experts. However, this is not permissible in the case of a liturgical text where such a choice would affect those elements of the passage that are pertinent to its liturgical context, or whenever the principles found elsewhere in this Instruction would otherwise be neglected. For passages where a critical consensus is lacking, particular attention should be given to the choices reflected in the approved Latin text.
39. The delineation of the biblical pericopai is to conform entirely to the Ordo lectionum Missae or to the other approved and confirmed liturgical texts, as the case may be.
40. With due regard for the requirements of sound exegesis, all care is to be taken to ensure that the words of the biblical passages commonly used in catechesis and in popular devotional prayers be maintained. On the other hand, great caution is to be taken to avoid a wording or style that the Catholic faithful would confuse with the manner of speech of non-Catholic ecclesial communities or of other religions, so that such a factor will not cause them confusion or discomfort.
41. The effort should be made to ensure that the translations be conformed to that understanding of biblical passages which has been handed down by liturgical use and by the tradition of the Fathers of the Church, especially as regards very important texts such as the Psalms and the readings used for the principal celebrations of the liturgical year; in these cases the greatest care is to be taken so that the translation express the traditional Christological, typological and spiritual sense, and manifest the unity and the inter-relatedness of the two Testaments. For this reason:
a) it is advantageous to be guided by the Nova Vulgata wherever there is a need to choose, from among various possibilities [of translation], that one which is most suited for expressing the manner in which a text has traditionally been read and received within the Latin liturgical tradition;
b) for the same purpose, other ancient versions of the Sacred Scriptures should also be consulted, such as the Greek version of the Old Testament commonly known as the “Septuagint”, which has been used by the Christian faithful from the earliest days of the Church;
c) in accordance with immemorial tradition, which indeed is already evident in the above-mentioned “Septuagint” version, the name of almighty God expressed by the Hebrew tetragrammaton (YHWH) and rendered in Latin by the word Dominus, is to be rendered into any given vernacular by a word equivalent in meaning.
Finally, translators are strongly encouraged to pay close attention to the history of interpretation that may be drawn from citations of biblical texts in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and also from those biblical images more frequently found in Christian art and hymnody.
42. While caution is advisable lest the historical context of the biblical passages be obscured, the translator should also bear in mind that the word of God proclaimed in the Liturgy is not simply an historical document. For the biblical text treats not only of the great persons and events of the Old and New Testaments, but also of the mysteries of salvation, and thus refers to the faithful of the present age and to their lives. While always maintaining due regard for the norm of fidelity to the original text, one should strive, whenever there is a choice to be made between different ways of translating a term, to make those choices that will enable the hearer to recognize himself and the dimensions of his own life as vividly as possible in the persons and events found in the text.
43. Modes of speech by which heavenly realities and actions are depicted in human form, or designated by means of limited, concrete terminology– as happens quite frequently in biblical language (i.e., anthropomorphisms) – often maintain their full force only if translated somewhat literally, as in the case of words in the Nova Vulgata Editio such as ambulare, brachium, digitus, manus, or vultus [Dei], as well as caro, cornu, os, semen, and visitare. Thus it is best that such terms not be explained or interpreted by more abstract or general vernacular expressions. As regards certain terms, such as those translated in the Nova Vulgata as anima and spiritus, the principles mentioned in above nn. 40-41 should be observed. Therefore, one should avoid replacing these terms by a personal pronoun or a more abstract term, except when this is strictly necessary in a given case. It should be borne in mind that a literal translation of terms which may initially sound odd in a vernacular language may for this very reason provoke inquisitiveness in the hearer and provide an occasion for catechesis.
44. In order for a translation to be more easily proclaimed, it is necessary that any expression be avoided which is confusing or ambiguous when heard, such that the hearer would fail to grasp its meaning.
45. Apart from that which is set forth in the Ordo lectionum Missae, the following norms are to be observed in the preparation of a Lectionary of biblical readings in a vernacular language:
a) Passages of Sacred Scripture contained in the Praenotanda of the Ordo lectionum Missae are to conform completely to the translation of the same passages as they occur within the Lectionary.
b) Likewise the titles, expressing the theme of the readings and placed at the head of them, are to retain the wording of the readings themselves, wherever such a correspondence exists in the Ordo lectionum Missae.
c) Finally, the words prescribed by the Ordo lectionum Missae for the beginning of the reading, called the incipits, are to follow as closely as possible the wording of the vernacular biblical version from which the readings are generally taken, refraining from following other translations. As regards those parts of the incipits that are not part of the biblical text itself, these are to be translated exactly from the Latin when preparing Lectionaries, unless the Conference of Bishops shall have sought and obtained the prior consent of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments authorizing a different procedure for introducing the readings.
3. Norms concerning the translation of other liturgical texts
46. The norms set forth above, and those regarding Sacred Scripture, should be applied, mutatis mutandis, in like manner to the texts of ecclesiastical composition.
47. While the translation must transmit the perennial treasury of orations by means of language understandable in the cultural context for which it is intended, it should also be guided by the conviction that liturgical prayer not only is formed by the genius of a culture, but itself contributes to the development of that culture. Consequently it should cause no surprise that such language differs somewhat from ordinary speech. Liturgical translation that takes due account of the authority and integral content of the original texts will facilitate the development of a sacral vernacular, characterized by a vocabulary, syntax and grammar that are proper to divine worship, even though it is not to be excluded that it may exercise an influence even on everyday speech, as has occurred in the languages of peoples evangelized long ago.
48. The texts for the principal celebrations occurring throughout the liturgical year should be offered to the faithful in a translation that is easily committed to memory, so as to render them usable in private prayers as well.
49. Characteristic of the orations of the Roman liturgical tradition as well as of the other Catholic Rites is a coherent system of words and patterns of speech, consecrated by the books of Sacred Scripture and by ecclesial tradition, especially the writings of the Fathers of the Church. For this reason the manner of translating the liturgical books should foster a correspondence between the biblical text itself and the liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition which contain biblical words or allusions. In the translation of such texts, the translator would best be guided by the manner of expression that is characteristic of the version of the Sacred Scriptures approved for liturgical use in the territories for which the translation is being prepared. At the same time, care should be taken to avoid weighting down the text by clumsily over-elaborating the more delicate biblical allusions.
50. Since the liturgical books of the Roman Rite contain many fundamental words of the theological and spiritual tradition of the Roman Church, every effort must be made to preserve this system of vocabulary rather than substituting other words that are alien to the liturgical and catechetical usage of the people of God in a given cultural and ecclesial context. For this reason, the following principles in particular are to be observed:
a) In translating words of greater theological significance, an appropriate degree of coordination should be sought between the liturgical text and the authoritative vernacular translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, provided that such a translation exists or is being prepared, whether in the language in question or in a very closely related language;
b) Whenever it would be inappropriate to use the same vocabulary or the same expression in the liturgical text as in the Catechism, the translator should be solicitous to render fully the doctrinal and theological meaning of the terms and of the text itself;
c) One should maintain the vocabulary that has gradually developed in a given vernacular language to distinguish the individual liturgical ministers, vessels, furnishings, and vesture from similar persons or things pertaining to everyday life and usage; words that lack such a sacral character are not to be used instead;
d) In translating important words, due constancy is to be observed throughout the various parts of the Liturgy, with due regard for n. 53 below.
51. On the other hand, a variety of vocabulary in the original text should give rise, insofar as possible, to a corresponding variety in the translations. The translation may be weakened and made trite, for example, by the use of a single vernacular term for rendering differing Latin terms such as satiari, sumere, vegetari, and pasci, on the one hand, or the nouns caritas and dilectio on the other, or the words anima, animus, cor, mens, and spiritus, to give some examples. Similarly, a deficiency in translating the varying forms of addressing God, such as Domine, Deus, Omnipotens aeterne Deus, Pater, and so forth, as well as the various words expressing supplication, may render the translation monotonous and obscure the rich and beautiful way in which the relationship between the faithful and God is expressed in the Latin text.
52. The translator should strive to maintain the denotation, or primary sense of the words and expressions found in the original text, as well as their connotation, that is, the finer shades of meaning or emotion evoked by them, and thus to ensure that the text be open to other orders of meaning that may have been intended in the original text.
53. Whenever a particular Latin term has a rich meaning that is difficult to render into a modern language (such as the words munus, famulus, consubstantialis, propitius, etc.) various solutions may be employed in the translations, whether the term be translated by a single vernacular word or by several, or by the coining of a new word, or perhaps by the adaptation or transcription of the same term into a language or alphabet that is different from the original text (cf. above, n. 21), or the use of an already existing word which may bear various meanings.
54. To be avoided in translations is any psychologizing tendency, especially a tendency to replace words treating of the theological virtues by others expressing merely human emotions. As regards words or expressions conveying a properly divine notion of causality (e.g., those expressed in Latin by the words “praesta, ut . . .”), one should avoid employing words or expressions denoting a merely extrinsic or profane sort of assistance instead.
55. Certain words that may appear to have been introduced into the Latin liturgical text for reasons of meter or other technical or literary reasons convey, in reality, a properly theological content, so that they are to be preserved, insofar as possible, in the translation. It is necessary to translate with the utmost precision those words that express aspects of the mysteries of faith and the proper disposition of the Christian soul.
56. Certain expressions that belong to the heritage of the whole or of a great part of the ancient Church, as well as others that have become part of the general human patrimony, are to be respected by a translation that is as literal as possible, as for example the words of the people’s response Et cum spiritu tuo, or the expression mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the Act of Penance of the Order of Mass.
B. Syntax, style and literary genre
57. That notable feature of the Roman Rite, namely its straightforward, concise and compact manner of expression, is to be maintained insofar as possible in the translation. Furthermore, the same manner of rendering a given expression is to be maintained throughout the translation, insofar as feasible. These principles are to be observed:
a) The connection between various expressions, manifested by subordinate and relative clauses, the ordering of words, and various forms of parallelism, is to be maintained as completely as possible in a manner appropriate to the vernacular language.
b) In the translation of terms contained in the original text, the same person, number, and gender is to be maintained insofar as possible.
c) The theological significance of words expressing causality, purpose or consequence (such as ut, ideo, enim, and quia) is to be maintained, though different languages may employ varying means for doing so.
d) The principles set forth above, in n. 51, regarding variety of vocabulary, are to be observed also in the variety of syntax and style (for example, in the location within the Collect of the vocative addressed to God).
58. The literary and rhetorical genres of the various texts of the Roman Liturgy are to be maintained.
59. Since liturgical texts by their very nature are intended to be proclaimed orally and to be heard in the liturgical celebration, they are characterized by a certain manner of expression that differs from that found in everyday speech or in texts intended be read silently. Examples of this include recurring and recognizable patterns of syntax and style, a solemn or exalted tone, alliteration and assonance, concrete and vivid images, repetition, parallelism and contrast, a certain rhythm, and at times, the lyric of poetic compositions. If it is sometimes not possible to employ in the translation the same stylistic elements as in the original text (as often happens, for example, in the case of alliteration or assonance), even so, the translator should seek to ascertain the intended effect of such elements in the mind of the hearer as regards thematic content, the expression of contrast between elements, emphasis, and so forth. Then he should employ the full possibilities of the vernacular language skillfully in order to achieve as integrally as possible the same effect as regards not only the conceptual content itself, but the other aspects as well. In poetic texts, greater flexibility will be needed in translation in order to provide for the role played by the literary form itself in expressing the content of the texts. Even so, expressions that have a particular doctrinal or spiritual importance or those that are more widely known are, insofar as possible, to be translated literally.
60. A great part of the liturgical texts are composed with the intention of their being sung by the priest celebrant, the deacon, the cantor, the people, or the choir. For this reason, the texts should be translated in a manner that is suitable for being set to music. Still, in preparing the musical accompaniment, full account must be taken of the authority of the text itself. Whether it be a question of the texts of Sacred Scripture or of those taken from the Liturgy and already duly confirmed, paraphrases are not to be substituted with the intention of making them more easily set to music, nor may hymns considered generically equivalent be employed in their place.
61. Texts that are intended to be sung are particularly important because they convey to the faithful a sense of the solemnity of the celebration, and manifest unity in faith and charity by means of a union of voices. The hymns and canticles contained in the modern editiones typicae constitute a minimal part of the historic treasury of the Latin Church, and it is especially advantageous that they be preserved in the printed vernacular editions, even if placed there in addition to hymns composed originally in the vernacular language. The texts for singing that are composed originally in the vernacular language would best be drawn from Sacred Scripture or from the liturgical patrimony.
62. Certain liturgical texts of ecclesiastical composition are associated with ritual actions expressed by a particular posture, gesture, or the use of signs. Thus, in preparing appropriate translations it will be advantageous to consider such factors as the time required for reciting the words, their suitability for being sung or continually repeated, etc.
4. Norms pertaining to special types of texts
A. The Eucharistic Prayers
63. The high point of all liturgical action is the celebration of the Mass, in which the Eucharistic Prayer or Anaphora in turn occupies a pre-eminent place. For this reason, the approved translations of the approved Eucharistic Prayers require the utmost care, especially as regards the sacramental formulae, for which a particular procedure is prescribed below, in nn. 85-86.
64. Without real necessity, successive revisions of translations should not notably change the previously approved vernacular texts of the Eucharistic Prayers which the faithful will have committed gradually to memory. Whenever a completely new translation is necessary, the principles given below, in n. 74, are to be observed.
B. The Creed or Profession of Faith
65. By means of the Creed (Symbolum) or profession of faith, the whole gathered people of God respond to the word of God proclaimed in the Sacred Scriptures and expounded in the homily, recalling and confessing the great mysteries of the faith by means of a formula approved for liturgical use. The Creed is to be translated according to the precise wording that the tradition of the Latin Church has bestowed upon it, including the use of the first person singular, by which is clearly made manifest that “the confession of faith is handed down in the Creed, as it were, as coming from the person of the whole Church, united by means of the Faith.” In addition, the expression carnis resurrectionem is to be translated literally wherever the Apostles’ Creed is prescribed or may be used in the Liturgy.
C. The “Praenotanda” and the texts of a rubrical or juridical nature
66. All parts of the various liturgical books are to be translated in the same order in which they are set forth in the Latin text of the editio typica, including the institutiones generales, the praenotanda, and the instructions supplied in the various rites, which function as a support for the whole structure of the Liturgy. The distinction between the various liturgical roles and the designation of the liturgical ministers by their proper titles is to be maintained in the translation precisely as it is in the rubrics of the editio typica, maintaining due regard for the principles mentioned in n. 50c above.
67. Wherever such praenotanda or other texts of the editiones typicae explicitly call for adaptations or specific applications to be introduced by the Conferences, as for example the parts of the Missal that are to be defined more specifically by the Conference of Bishops, it is permissible to insert these prescriptions into the text, provided that they have received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. It is not required in such cases, by their very nature, to translate these parts verbatim as they stand in the editio typica. Nevertheless, a mention is to be made of the decree of approbation of the Conference of Bishops and of the recognitio granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
68. At the beginning of the vernacular editions are to be placed the decrees by which the editiones typicae have been promulgated by the competent Dicastery of the Apostolic See, with due regard for the prescriptions found in n. 78. Also to be placed there are the decrees by means of which the recognitio of the Holy See has been granted for the translations, or at least the mention of the recognitio is to be made together with the date, month, year, and protocol number of the decree issued by the Dicastery. Since these are also historical documents, the names of the Dicasteries or other organ of the Apostolic See are to be translated exactly as they appeared on the date of promulgation of the document, rather than being altered to reflect the present name of the same or equivalent body.
69. The editions of the liturgical books prepared in the vernacular language are to correspond in every part to the titles, the ordering of texts, the rubrics, and the system of numbering that appears in the editio typica, unless otherwise directed in the praenotanda of the same books. Furthermore, any additions approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments are to be inserted either in a supplement or appendix, or in their proper place in the book, as the Apostolic See shall have directed.
ON THE PREPARATION OF TRANSLATIONS
AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSIONS
1. The manner of preparing a translation
70. On account of the entrusting to the Bishops of the task of preparing liturgical translations, this work is committed in a particular way to the liturgical commission duly established by the Conference of Bishops. Wherever such a commission is lacking, the task of preparing the translation is to be entrusted to two or three Bishops who are expert in liturgical, biblical, philological or musical studies. As regards the examination and approbation of the texts, each individual Bishop must regard this duty as a direct, solemn and personal fiduciary responsibility.
71. In nations where many languages are used, the translations into individual vernacular languages are to be prepared and submitted to the special examination of those Bishops involved. Nevertheless, it is the Conference of Bishops as such that retains the right and the power to posit all of those actions mentioned in this Instruction as pertaining to the Conference; thus, it pertains to the full Conference to approve a text and to submit it for the recognitio of the Apostolic See.
72. The Bishops, in fulfilling their mission of preparing translations of liturgical texts, are carefully to ensure that the translations be the fruit of a truly common effort rather than of any single person or of a small group of persons.
73. Whenever a Latin editio typica of a given liturgical book is promulgated, it is necessary that it be followed in a timely manner by the preparation of a translation of the same book, which the Conference of Bishops is to send, after having duly approved it, to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to whom it pertains to grant the recognitio according to the norms set forth in this Instruction, and also in keeping with others established by the law. However, when it is a question of a change affecting only a part of the Latin editio typica or the insertion of new elements, these new elements are to be maintained fully and faithfully in all succeeding editions produced in the vernacular language.
74. A certain stability ought to be maintained whenever possible in successive editions prepared in modern languages. The parts that are to be committed to memory by the people, especially if they are sung, are to be changed only for a just and considerable reason. Nevertheless, if more significant changes are necessary for the purpose of bringing the text into conformity with the norms contained in this Instruction, it will be preferable to make such changes at one time, rather than prolonging them over the course of several editions. In such case, a suitable period of catechesis should accompany the publication of the new text.
75. The translation of liturgical texts requires not only a rare degree of expertise, but also a spirit of prayer and of trust in the divine assistance granted not only to the translators, but to the Church herself, throughout the whole process leading to the definitive approbation of the texts. The readiness to see one’s own work examined and revised by others is an essential trait that should be evident in one who undertakes the translation of liturgical texts. Furthermore, all translations or texts prepared in vernacular languages, including those of the praenotanda and the rubrics, are to be anonymous with respect to persons as well as to institutions consisting of several persons, as in the case of the editiones typicae.
76. In implementing the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, it has become evident from the mature experience of the nearly four decades of the liturgical renewal that have elapsed since the Council that the need for translations of liturgical texts – at least as regards the major languages — is experienced not only by the Bishops in governing the particular Churches, but also by the Apostolic See, for the effective exercise of her universal solicitude for the Christian faithful in the City of Rome and throughout the world. Indeed, in the Diocese of Rome, especially in many of the Churches and institutes of the City that depend in some way on the Diocese or the organs of the Holy See, as well as in the activity of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the Pontifical Representations, the major languages are widely and frequently employed even in liturgical celebrations. For this reason, it has been determined that in the future, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will be involved more directly in the preparation of the translations into these major languages.
77. Furthermore, as regards the major languages, an integral translation of all of the liturgical books is to be prepared in a timely manner. Translations heretofore approved ad interim are to be perfected or thoroughly revised, as the case requires, and afterwards submitted to the Bishops for definitive approbation in accordance with the norms set forth in this Instruction. Finally, they are to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments with a request for the recognitio.
78. In the case of the less diffused languages that are approved for liturgical use, the larger or more important liturgical books, in particular, may be translated, according to pastoral necessity and with the consent of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The individual books thus selected are to be translated integrally, in the manner described in n. 66 above. As for the decrees, the institutio generalis, the praenotanda and the instructions, it is permissible to print them in a language that is different from the one used in the celebration, but nevertheless intelligible to the priest or deacon celebrants in the same territory. It is permissible to print the Latin text of the decrees, either in addition to the translation or instead of it.
2. The approbation of the translation and the petition for the recognitio of the Apostolic See
79. The approbation liturgical texts, whether definitive, on the one hand, or ad interim or ad experimentum on the other, must be made by decree. In order that this be legitimately executed, the following are to be observed:
a) For the legitimate passage of decrees, a two-thirds vote by secret ballot is required on the part of all who enjoy the right to a deliberative vote of the Conference of Bishops.
b) All acts to be examined by the Apostolic See, prepared in duplicate, signed by the President and Secretary of the Conference, and duly affixed with its seal, are to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In these acts are to be contained:
i) the names of the Bishops or of those equivalent in law who were present at the meeting,
ii) a relatio of the proceedings, which should contain the results of the voting for each individual decree, including the number in favor, the number opposed, and the number abstaining.
c) Two copies are to be sent of the liturgical texts prepared in the vernacular language; insofar as possible, the same text should be sent on computer diskette;
d) In the particular relatio, the following should be explained clearly:
i) the process and criteria followed in the work of translation.
ii) a list of the persons participating at various stages in the work, together with a brief note describing the qualifications and expertise of each.
iii) any changes that may have been introduced in relation to the previous translation of the same edition of the liturgical book are to be indicated clearly, together with the reasons for making such changes;
iv) an indication of any changes with respect to the content of the Latin editio typica together with the reasons which they were necessary, and with a notation of the prior consent of the Apostolic See for the introduction of such changes.
80. The practice of seeking the recognitio from the Apostolic See for all translations of liturgical books accords the necessary assurance of the authenticity of the translation and its correspondence with the original texts. This practice both expresses and effects a bond of communion between the successor of blessed Peter and his brothers in the Episcopate. Furthermore, this recognitio is not a mere formality, but is rather an exercise of the power of governance, which is absolutely necessary (in the absence of which the act of the Conference of Bishops entirely in no way attains legal force); and modifications –even substantial ones—may be introduced by means of it. For this reason it is not permissible to publish, for the use of celebrants or for the general public, any liturgical texts that have been translated or recently composed, as long as the recognitio is lacking. Since the lex orandi must always be in harmony with the lex credendi and must manifest and support the faith of the Christian people, the liturgical translations will not be capable of being worthy of God without faithfully transmitting the wealth of Catholic doctrine from the original text into the vernacular version, in such a way that the sacred language is adapted to the dogmatic reality that it contains. Furthermore, it is necessary to uphold the principle according to which each particular Church must be in accord with the universal Church not only as regards the doctrine of the Faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards those practices universally received through Apostolic and continuous tradition. For these reasons, the required recognitio of the Apostolic See is intended to ensure that the translations themselves, as well as any variations introduced into them, will not harm the unity of God’s people, but will serve it instead.
81. The recognitio granted by the Apostolic See is to be indicated in the printed editions together with the concordat cum originali signed by the chairman of the liturgical commission of the Conference of Bishops, as well as the imprimatur undersigned by the President of the same Conference. Afterwards, two copies of each printed edition are to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
82. Any alteration of a liturgical book that has already been approved by the Conference of Bishops with the subsequent recognitio of the Apostolic See, as regards either the selection of texts from liturgical books already published or the changing of the arrangement of the texts, must be done according to the procedure established above, in n. 79, with due regard also for the prescriptions set forth in n. 22. Any other manner of proceeding in particular circumstances may be employed only if it is authorized by the Statutes of the Conference of Bishops or equivalent legislation approved by the Apostolic See.
83. As regards the editions of liturgical books prepared in vernacular languages, the approbation of the Conference of Bishops as well as the recognitio of the Apostolic See are to be regarded as valid only for the territory of the same Conference, so that these editions may not be used in another territory without the consent of the Apostolic See, except in those particular circumstances mentioned above, in nn. 18 and 76, and in keeping with the norms set forth there.
84. Wherever a certain Conference of Bishops lacks sufficient resources or instruments for the preparation and printing of a liturgical book, the President of the that Conference is to explain the situation to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to whom it pertains to establish or to approve any different arrangement, such as the publication of liturgical books together with other Conferences or the use of those already employed elsewhere. Such a concession shall only be granted by the Holy See ad actum.
3. On the translation and approbation of sacramental formulae
85. As regards the translation of the sacramental formulae, which the Congregation for Divine Worship must submit to the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, the following principles are to be observed besides those required for the translation of other liturgical texts:
a) In the case of the English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish languages, all of the acts are to be presented in that language;
b) If the translation differs from a vernacular text already prepared and approved in the same language, it is necessary to explain the reason for the introduction of the change;
c) The President and Secretary of the Conference of Bishops should testify that the translation has been approved by the Conference of Bishops.
86. In the case of the less widely diffused languages, everything shall be prepared as set forth above. The acts, however, are to be prepared with great care in one of the languages mentioned above as more widely known, rendering the meaning of each individual word of the vernacular language. The President and Secretary of the Conference of Bishops, after any necessary consultation with trustworthy experts, are to testify to the authenticity of the translation.
4. On a unified version of the liturgical texts
87. It is recommended that there be a single translation of the liturgical books for each vernacular language, brought about by means of coordination among the Bishops of those regions where the same language is spoken. If this proves truly impossible because of the circumstances, the individual Conferences of Bishops, after consultation with the Holy See, may decide either to adapt a previously existing translation or to prepare a new one. In either case, the recognitio of their acts is to be sought from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
88. In the case of the Order of Mass and those parts of the Sacred Liturgy that call for the direct participation of the people, a single translation should exist in a given language, unless a different provision is made in individual cases.
89. Texts which are common to several Conferences, as mentioned above in nn. 87-88, are ordinarily to be approved by each of the individual Conferences of Bishops which must use them, before the confirmation of the texts is granted by the Apostolic See.
90. With due regard for Catholic traditions and for all of the principles and norms contained in this Instruction, an appropriate relationship or coordination is greatly to be desired, whenever possible, between any translations intended for common use in the various Rites of the Catholic Church, especially as regards the text of Sacred Scripture. The Bishops of the Latin Church are to foster the same in a spirit of respectful and fraternal cooperation.
91. A similar agreement is desirable also with the particular non-Catholic Eastern Churches or with the authorities of the Protestant ecclesial communities, provided that it is not a question of a liturgical text pertaining to doctrinal matters still in dispute, and provided also that the Churches or ecclesial communities involved have a sufficient number of adherents and that those consulted are truly capable of functioning as representatives of the same ecclesial communities. In order completely to avoid the danger of scandal or of confusion among the Christian faithful, the Catholic Church must retain full liberty of action in such agreements, even in civil law.
5. On “mixed” commissions
92. So that there might be unity in the liturgical books even as regards vernacular translations, and so that the resources and the efforts of the Church might not be consumed needlessly, the Apostolic See has promoted, among other possible solutions, the establishment of “mixed” commissions, that is, those in whose work several Conferences of Bishops participate.
93. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments erects such “mixed” commissions at the request of the Conferences of Bishops involved; afterwards the commission is governed by statutes approved by the Apostolic See. It is ordinarily to be hoped that each and every one of the Conferences of Bishops will have deliberated the matter of the above-mentioned establishment of the commission as well as of the composition of its statutes before the petition is submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Even so, if it is judged opportune by that Dicastery due to the great number of Conferences, or the protracted period of time required for a vote, or particular pastoral necessity, it is not excluded that the statutes be prepared and approved by the same Dicastery, after consultation, insofar as possible, with at least some of the Bishops involved.
94. A “mixed” commission, by its very nature, provides assistance to the Bishops rather than substituting for them as regards their pastoral mission and their relations with the Apostolic See. For a “mixed” commission does not constitute a tertium quid place between the Conferences of Bishops and the Holy See, nor is it to be regarded as a means of communication between them. The Members of the Commission are always Bishops, or at least those equivalent in law to Bishops. It pertains to the Bishops, furthermore, to direct the Commission as its Members.
95. It would be advantageous that among the Bishops who participate in the work of each “mixed” commission, there be at least some who are responsible for dealing with liturgical matters in their respective Conferences, as, for example, the chairman of the liturgical commission of the Conference.
96. Such a commission, in fact, insofar as possible, should exercise its office by means of the resources of the liturgical commissions of the individual Conferences involved, using their experts, their technical resources, and their secretarial staff. For example, the work undertaken is coordinated in such a way that a first draft of the translation is prepared by the liturgical commission of one Conference and then improved by the other Conferences, even in light of the diversity of expression prevailing in the same language in the individual territories.
97. It is preferable that at least some Bishops participate at the various stages of work on a given text, until the time when the mature text is submitted to the Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Bishops for its examination and approval and is then sent immediately by the Conference President, with the signature also of the Secretary General, to the Apostolic See for the recognitio.
98. In addition, the “mixed” commissions are to limit themselves to the translation of the editiones typicae, leaving aside all theoretical questions not directly related to this work, and not involving themselves either in relations with other “mixed” commissions or in the composition of original texts.
99. In fact, the necessity remains for establishing commissions dealing with the Sacred Liturgy as well as sacred art and sacred music according to the norm of law in each diocese and territory of the Conference of Bishops. These commissions shall work in their own right for the purposes proper to them, and shall not cede the matters entrusted to them to any “mixed” commission.
100. All of the principal collaborators of any “mixed” commission who are not Bishops, and to whom a stable mission is entrusted by such commissions, require the nihil obstat granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments before beginning their work. The nihil obstat will be granted after consideration of their academic degrees and testimonies regarding their expertise, and a letter of recommendation submitted by their own diocesan Bishop. In the preparation of the statutes mentioned above, in n. 93, the manner in which the request for the nihil obstat is to be made shall be described with greater precision.
101. All, including the experts, are to conduct their work anonymously, observing confidentiality to which all who are not Bishops are to be bound by contract.
102. It is also advantageous that the terms of office of the members, collaborators and experts be renewed periodically in a manner defined by the Statutes. On account of a need on the part of the Commissions that may become evident in the course of the work, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments may grant, upon request, a prolongation by indult of the term of office established for a particular member, collaborator or expert.
103. In the case of previously existing “mixed” Commissions, their statutes are to be revised within two years from the date that this Instruction enters into force, according to the norms of n. 93 and of the other norms prescribed by this Instruction.
104. For the good of the faithful, the Holy See reserves to itself the right to prepare translations in any language, and to approve them for liturgical use. Nevertheless, even if the Apostolic See, by means of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, may intervene from time to time out of necessity in the preparation of translations, it still belongs to the competent Conference of Bishops to approve their assumption into liturgical use within the boundaries of a given ecclesiastical territory, unless otherwise explicitly indicated in the decree of approbation of the translation promulgated by the Apostolic See. Afterwards, for the purpose of obtaining the recognitio of the Holy See, the Conference shall transmit the decree of approbation for its territory together with the text itself, in accordance with the norms of this Instruction and of the other requirements of the law.
105. For reasons such as those set forth in nn. 76 and 84 above or for other urgent reasons of pastoral need, commissions, councils, committees, or work groups depending directly on the Apostolic See are established by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the purpose of working on the translation either of individual liturgical books or of several. In this case, insofar as possible, at least some of the Bishops involved in the matter will be consulted.
6. The composition of new liturgical texts in a vernacular language
106. Regarding the composition of new liturgical texts prepared in vernacular languages, which may perhaps be added to those translated from the Latin editiones typicae, the norms currently in force are to be observed, in particular those contained in the Instruction Varietates legitimae. An individual Conference of Bishops shall establish one or more Commissions for the preparation of texts or for the work involved in the suitable adaptation of texts. The texts are then to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the recognitio, prior to the publication of any books intended for the celebrants or for the general use of the Christian faithful.
107. It is to be borne in mind that the composition of new texts of prayers or rubrics is not an end in itself, but must be undertaken for the purpose of meeting a particular cultural or pastoral need. For this reason it is strictly the task of the local and national liturgical Commissions, and not of the Commissions treated in nn. 92-104 above. New texts composed in a vernacular language, just as the other adaptations legitimately introduced, are to contain nothing that is inconsistent with the function, meaning, structure, style, theological content, traditional vocabulary or other important qualities of the texts found in the editiones typicae.
108. Sung texts and liturgical hymns have a particular importance and efficacy. Especially on Sunday, the “Day of the Lord”, the singing of the faithful gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass, no less than the prayers, the readings and the homily, express in an authentic way the message of the Liturgy while fostering a sense of common faith and communion in charity. If they are used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the people may be avoided. Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
THE PUBLICATION OF LITURGICAL BOOKS
109. Of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite containing only Latin texts, only the one published by decree of the Congregation having competency at the time is designated the “editio typica”. The editiones typicae published prior to this Instruction were issued either Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis or by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana; in the future, they are usually to be printed by the Tipografia Vaticana, while the right of publication is reserved to the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
110. The norms of this Instruction, as regards all rights, refer to the editiones typicae that have been or will be published, whether of a whole book or of a part: namely, the editions of the Missale Romanum, the Ordo Missae, the Lectionary of the Missale Romanum, the Evangeliary of the Missale Romanum, the Missale parvum extracted from the Missale Romanum and Lectionarium, the Passio Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, the Liturgia Horarum, the Rituale Romanum, the Pontificale Romanum, the Martyrologium Romanum, the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine and its Lectionary, the Graduale Romanum, the Antiphonale Romanum, as well as the other books of Gregorian chant and the editions of the books of the Roman Rite promulgated by decree as editiones typicae, such as the Caeremoniale Episcoporum and the Calendarium Romanum.
111. As regards the liturgical books of the Roman Rite promulgated in an editio typica either before or after the Second Vatican Council by decree of the Congregations competent at the time, the Apostolic See, through the Administratio Patrimonii or, in its name and by its mandate, through the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, possesses and reserves to itself the right of ownership commonly known as “copyright”. The granting of permission for a reprinting pertains to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
112. Of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, those prepared in the Latin language by an editor after the publication of the editio typica, with the permission of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, are said to be “iuxta typicam”.
113. As regards the editions iuxta typicam intended for liturgical use: the right of printing liturgical books containing only the Latin text is reserved to the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and to those editors to whom the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will have chosen to grant contracts, unless a different provision is made in the norms inserted into the editio typica itself.
114. The right of translating the liturgical books of the Roman Rite in a vernacular language, or at least the right of approving them for liturgical use and of printing and publishing them in their own territory, remains uniquely that of the Conference of Bishops, with due regard, however, to the rights of recognitio and the proprietary rights of the Apostolic See, also set forth in this Instruction.
115. As regards the publication of liturgical books translated into the vernacular which are the property of a given Conference of Bishops, the right of publication is reserved to those editors to whom the Conference of Bishops shall have given this right by contract, with due regard for the requirements both of civil law and of juridical custom prevailing in each country for the publication of books.
116. In order for an editor to be able to proceed to the printing of editions iuxta typicam intended for liturgical use, he must do the following:
a) in the case of books containing only the Latin text, obtain, in each single instance, the consent of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and then enter into an agreement with the Administratio Patrimonii Sedis Apostolicae or with the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, which acts in the name and by the mandate of the same body, regarding the conditions for the publication of such books;
b) in the case of books containing texts in a vernacular language, obtain the consent, according to the circumstances, of the President of the Conference of Bishops, the Institute or the Commission that manages the matter in the name of several Conferences by license of the Holy See, and enter at the same time into an agreement with this body regarding the conditions for publication of such books, with due regard for the norms and laws in force in that country;
c) in the case of books containing principally a vernacular text but also containing extensive use of the Latin text, the norms of n. 116a are to be observed for the Latin part.
117. The rights of publication and the copyright for all translations of liturgical books, or at least the rights in civil law necessary for exercising complete liberty in publishing or correcting texts, is to remain with the Conferences of Bishops or their national liturgical Commissions. The same body shall possess the right of taking any measures necessary to prevent or correct any improper use of the texts.
118. Wherever the copyright for translated liturgical texts is common to several Conferences, a licensing agreement is to be prepared for the individual Conferences, such that, insofar as possible, the matter may be administrated by the individual Conferences themselves, according to the norm of law. Otherwise, a body shall be established for such administration by the Apostolic See, after consultation with the Bishops.
119. The correspondence of the liturgical books with the editiones typicae approved for liturgical use, in the case of a text prepared only in the Latin language, must be established by the attestation of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; however, in the case of a text prepared in a vernacular language or in the case described above, in n. 116 c, it must be established by attestation of the local Ordinary in whose diocese the books are published.
120. The books from which the liturgical texts are recited in the vernacular with or on behalf of the people should be marked by such a dignity that the exterior appearance of the book itself will lead the faithful to a greater reverence for the word of God and for sacred realities. Thus it is necessary as soon as possible to move beyond the temporary phase characterized by leaflets or fascicles, wherever these exist. All books intended for the liturgical use of priest or deacon celebrants are to be of a size sufficient to distinguish them from the books intended for the personal use of the faithful. To be avoided in them is any extravagance which would necessarily lead to costs that would be unaffordable for some. Pictures or images on the cover and in the pages of the book should be characterized by a certain noble simplicity and by the use of only those styles that have a universal and perennial appeal in the cultural context.
121. Even in the case of pastoral aids published for the private use of the faithful and intended to foster their participation in the liturgical celebrations, the publishers must observe the proprietary rights:
a) of the Holy See, in the case of the Latin text, or of the Gregorian music in books of chant published either before or after the Second Vatican Council – with the exception, however, of those rights conceded universally, or those to be thus conceded in the future;
b) of the Conference of Bishops or of several Conferences of Bishops simultaneously, in the case of a text prepared in a vernacular language or of the music printed in the same text, which is the property of the Conference or Conferences.
For these aids, especially if published in the form of books, the consent of the diocesan Bishop is required, according to the norm of law.
122. Care is to be taken to ensure that the choice of publishers for the printing of the liturgical books be made in such a way as to exclude any whose publications are not readily seen to conform to the spirit and norms of Catholic tradition.
123. Regarding texts produced by agreement with the particular Churches and ecclesial communities separated from the communion of the Holy See, it is necessary that the Catholic Bishops and the Apostolic See retain full rights for introducing any changes or corrections that may be deemed necessary for their use among Catholics.
124. According to the judgment of the Conference of Bishops, leaflets or cards containing liturgical texts for the use of the faithful may be excepted from the general rule by which liturgical books prepared in a vernacular language must contain everything that is in the Latin textus typicus or editio typica. As for the official editions, namely those for the liturgical use of the priest, deacon or competent lay minister, the norms mentioned above, in nn. 66-69, are to be maintained.
125. Besides what is contained in the editio typica or foreseen or set forth specifically in this Instruction, no text is to be added in the vernacular edition without prior approbation granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
THE TRANSLATION OF PROPER LITURGICAL TEXTS
1. Diocesan propers
126. In the preparation of a translation of texts of a diocesan liturgical approved by the Apostolic See as textus typici, the following are to be observed:
a) The translation is to be done by the diocesan liturgical Commission or by another body designated by the diocesan Bishop for this purpose, and then it must be approved by the diocesan Bishop, after consultation with his clergy and with experts;
b) The translation is to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the recognitio, along with three copies of the textus typicus together with the translation;
c) A relatio is to be prepared as well, which is to contain:
i) the decree by which the textus typicus has been approved by the Apostolic See,
ii) the process and criteria followed in the translation;
iii) a list of the persons who have participated at various stages of the work, together with a brief description of their experience or abilities, and of their academic degrees;
d) In the case of the less widely diffused languages, the Conference of Bishops should testify that the text is accurately translated into the language in question, as mentioned above, in n. 86.
127. In the printed text are to be contained the decrees by means of which the recognitio of the Holy See is granted for the translations; or at least a mention is to be made of the recognitio, including the date, the month, the year, and the protocol number of the decree published by the Dicastery, in keeping with the same norms as above, in n. 68. Two copies of the printed text are to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
2. Propers of religious families
128. In the preparation the translation of texts approved by the Apostolic See as textus typici for religious families, that is, Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life, or other approved associations or organizations having the rights to their use, the following are to be observed:
a) The translation is to be made by the general liturgical Commission or by another body constituted for the purpose by the Supreme Moderator or at least by his mandate given to the Provincial Superior, and then it is to be approved by the Supreme Moderator with the deliberative vote of his Council, after any necessary consultation with experts and with appropriate members of the Institute or Society;
b) The translation is to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the recognitio, together with three copies of the textus typicus;
c) A relatio is also to be prepared, which is to contain:
i) the decree by which the textus typicus has been approved by the Apostolic See,
ii) the process and criteria followed in the translation,
iii) a list of the persons who have participated at various stages of the work, together with a brief description of their experience or abilities, and of their academic degrees;
d) In the case of the less widely diffused languages, the Conference of Bishops should testify that the text is accurately translated into the language in question, as mentioned above, in n. 86.
e) As regards religious families of diocesan right, the same procedure is to be followed, but in addition, the text is to be sent by the diocesan Bishop, together with his judgment of approbation, to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
129. In the liturgical Propers of religious families, the translation of the Sacred Scriptures to be employed for liturgical use is to be the same one approved for liturgical use according to the norm of law for the same territory. If this proves difficult, the matter is to be referred to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
130. In the printed text are to be contained the decrees by means of which the recognitio of the Holy See is granted for the translations, or at least a mention is to be made of the recognitio, including the date, the month, the year, and the protocol number of the decree published by the Dicastery, in keeping with the same norms as above, in n. 68. Two copies of the printed text are to be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
131. Approbation granted in the past for individual liturgical translations remains in effect even if a principle or criterion has been followed which differs from those contained in this Instruction. Nevertheless, from the day on which this Instruction is published, a new period begins for the making of emendations or for undertaking anew the consideration of the introduction of vernacular languages or idioms into liturgical use, as well as for revising translations heretofore made into vernacular languages.
132. Within five years from the date of publication of this Instruction, the Presidents of the Conferences of Bishops and the Supreme Moderators of religious families and institutes equivalent in law are bound to present to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments an integral plan regarding the liturgical books translated into the vernacular in their respective territories or institutes.
133. In addition, the norms established by this Instruction attain full force for the emendation of previous translations, and any further delay in making such emendations is to be avoided. It is to be hoped that this new effort will provide stability in the life of the Church, so as to lay a firm foundation for supporting the liturgical life of God’s people and bringing about a solid renewal of catechesis.
After the preparation of this Instruction by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in virtue of the mandate of the Supreme Pontiff transmitted in a letter of the Cardinal Secretary of State dated 1 February 1997 (Prot. n. 408.304), the same Supreme Pontiff, in an audience granted to the Cardinal Secretary of State on 20 March 2001, approved this Instruction and confirmed it by his own authority, ordering that it be published, and that it enter into force on the 25th day of April of the same year.
From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 28 March, the year 2001.
Jorge A. Card. Medina Estévez
Francesco Pio Tamburrino