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BY Jim Cosgrove
DUBLIN—The word “men” has been removed from the Nicene Creed in Ireland to make the prayer said at most Sunday Masses more acceptable to women.
The prayer beginning “We believe in one God, the Father …” formerly contained the line, “For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven.” Now the line reads “For us and our salvation” when it appears in missalettes approved by Archbishop Desmond Connell of Dublin.
According to Father Patrick Jones of the National Center for Liturgy in Maynooth, County Kildare, the new version is the one approved by the international ecumenical bodies such as English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) and International Consultation on English Texts (ICET). He says that on an international level major efforts have been made to harmonize prayers shared in common by all the major English-speaking Christian Churches. As well as the Nicene Creed, there also exist approved ecumenical versions of the Kyrie, the Gloria, and the Magnificat.
Father Jones admitted, however, that the removal of the word “men” from the Creed was connected with “the question of inclusive and exclusive language.”
The change in the Creed is part of a larger project by ELLC to produce a new missal that is hoped will be published in time for the celebration of the Jubilee 2000 — however, the final draft of the missal has yet to receive full official status from Rome.
The new missal will be used by the Catholic Churches of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but will differ from that used in the United States. Father Jones said: “At present, because the United States used an earlier draft of the Creed than we are now using, their Nicene Creed differs in four places from ours.”
There has been some controversy in Ireland about inclusive language in the liturgy since a report on the issue was presented to Archbishop Connell in February.
The report by the Dublin Archdiocesan Women's Forum, a body set up two years ago by the archbishop, recommended that he “make a positive statement regarding inclusiveness in language and liturgy and encourage all parishes in the diocese to use inclusive language.”
The forum defined inclusive language as “language that is sensitive to the equality and dignity of each person regardless of racial or ethnic background, gender, creed, age, or ability.”
There was a split in the Women's Forum following publication of the report. Forum members who claimed the report had been hijacked by feminists particularly objected to one recommendation for an “open discussion [of] the issue of women priests.”
However, Dublin's five auxiliary bishops expressed varying degrees of support for the document. Bishop Martin Drennan said, “There is much that needs to be done with the language of our prayer and liturgy to make it gender-sensitive.”
Canon Padraig O'Fiannachta of the Advisory Committee for the Liturgy in Gaelic, the body that advises on Irish-language liturgy matters, said that when it came to inclusive language for women “there is no trouble at all in the Irish speaking community.”
“This is because the Irish word daoine cannot be translated as ‘men’ or ‘women’ it is not specific to either sex. The nearest most accurate translation is ‘people,’” he explained. (Cian Molloy)