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Liturgical Texts Changing Smoothly

by Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Bit by bit, the third edition of the Roman Missal is being introduced in parishes throughout the English-speaking world.

From Canada to southern Africa to New Zealand, Catholics have seen parts of the new missal introduced at various times – most since January, but some earlier – so that by the first Sunday of Advent Nov. 27, the transition to a new set of prayers and liturgical music will be as seamless as possible for the faithful.

As the implementation moves forward, the liturgists charged with overseeing the missal’s introduction in seven of the 10 English-speaking countries and regions outside of the U.S. making the transition say that their efforts have eased concerns that the translation was a step back from the Second Vatican Council’s vision for liturgy.

“The bishops here took the view that there should be an incremental approach to implementation,” explained Father Peter Wiliams, executive secretary of the Bishops Commission for Liturgy in Australia.

The process began with the introduction of new musical settings in January, followed by the spoken parts of the Mass at Pentecost in June, Father Williams said. The eucharistic prayers and other parts of the missal will be introduced Nov. 1 so that by Advent the transition will be completed.

The pace of each phase was left to local pastors, with some parishes moving more quickly and others more slowly depending on how well congregations welcomed them, Father Williams said.

The introduction of the English translation of the missal – under development since 2002 – is occurring in countries represented by the 11 bishops’ conference members of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.  Member conferences include the United States, Canada, Ireland, England and Wales, Scotland, southern Africa (South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana), India, Pakistan, Philippines, New Zealand and Australia.

The most recent translation of the Roman Missal is the third since Vatican II’s call for the “full, conscious and active participation” of all Catholics in the liturgy.  In introducing the third Latin translation in 2002, Pope John Paul II said it more closely matched the vivid language used throughout church history.

The English translation took nearly seven years as representatives to ICEL debated the proper words that reflected the sacred language found in the latest Latin edition of the missal. The Vatican approved the English translation in 2009.

Disagreements emerged among U.S. bishops as the final translation was reviewed before it was sent to Rome for approval. Some bishops deemed it as elitist or remote from everyday speech. Despite the concerns, the American bishops overwhelmingly approved the translation.

In Ireland, the Association of Catholic Priests, which represents about 10% of the country’s clergy, continued to object to the translation into 2011. In a March 28 statement, the association charged that the translation was “too complex and too cumbersome” and included sexist language. It also questioned its “theological veracity” and described the translation process as flawed.
Such challenges have not delayed implementation, however.

Around the world the implementation has been boosted through workshops and meetings with key church leaders aimed at explaining what the changes entail and their significance. Each bishops’ conference has developed its own resources, including laminated cards in pews for worshippers, seminars and websites.

In Canada, Father William Burke, director of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Liturgy Office, has found people accepting of the changes – once the reasoning behind them is explained.

In the United Kingdom, which includes the bishops’ conferences of Scotland and England and Wales, the implementation was to begin Sept. 4.

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