Cardinal George Pell has said he is confident the new English translation of the Roman Missal will be ready for publication within the year.
Speaking to the Register Feb. 1, the chairman of the Vox Clara Committee, the international group of bishops advising the Vatican about the translation of the Roman Missal into English, said he was “optimistic” it will be available in parishes for Advent 2011, and added that he believed the Vatican review process “will certainly be completed within the year” but could not give a precise date.
The Vox Clara Committee, which met in Rome Jan. 26-29, has now handed over the new translation of the complete Roman Missal, the book of prayers used at Mass, to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The congregation is now reviewing the text before issuing a final recognitio (approval), which is expected in the first half of this year.
However, the date of publication and when it will be available for use in parishes remains unclear; it may not be ready for use until Advent 2012, at the latest. A senior Vatican official told the Register Feb. 1 that although no decision has yet been made, he believed publication in Advent 2011 as “probably [the] most likely date, to coincide with the beginning of the liturgical year.”
Most English-speaking bishops’ conferences are preparing materials to introduce and explain the new translation with the hope that people will begin using it in parishes for Advent 2011.
In a statement released after their meeting, Vox Clara Committee members said they had “reviewed various reports on the steps being taken for editing, coordination of manuscripts and reviews for internal consistency of the English-language translation” of the Roman Missal.
Marist Father Anthony Ward, an official of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said that because bishops’ conferences approved the Roman Missal in sections over a period of years, a final review and minor edits were needed to ensure consistency. For instance, he said, the same Latin prayer may be used in two different Masses and may have been translated slightly differently during the bishops’ approval process.
The Vox Clara statement said committee members reviewed the last two sections of the Roman Missal translation to be approved by bishops’ conferences in English-speaking countries: the proper of saints, a collection of specific prayers related to each saint in the universal liturgical calendar; and the common of saints, general prayers for celebrating saints listed in the “Roman Martyrology” but not in the universal calendar.
The statement added that Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the congregation, met with the committee and “expressed his hope that the coming confirmation of the Roman Missal would prove to be of great pastoral advantage to the Church in the English-speaking world.”
The statement continued: “Expressing their enthusiasm for the extraordinary pastoral opportunity provided by the publication of a translation characterized by high literary quality, theological precision and pastoral utility, the members emphasized the importance of providing pastors and people with the greatest possible support in the effective pastoral reception of this new translation.”
Some have been critical of the translation process, saying it was undertaken with inadequate consultation. Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., the former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, has contended that the U.S. bishops’ conference did not have a direct hand in the antiphons of the Missale Romanum.
His comments were echoed in an article for the Jesuit America magazine. Father Michael Ryan of St. James Cathedral in Seattle wrote in December that the new translation was “at best trivial and at worst hopelessly out-of-touch” and that several new texts are products of “flawed principles of translation.” Similar concerns were echoed by a few Catholic clergy in Britain, according to The Tablet magazine.
However, in a follow-up response to Father Ryan’s article, Father Peter Stravinskas, publisher of Newman House Press, wrote in America that Bishop Trautman had misunderstood Paragraph 36 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which stipulates that episcopal conferences are to approve translations, and not produce them, with subsequent approval by the Holy See. Father Stravinskas also asked how the final texts could have received “such overwhelming support” from the American bishops if they were so bad, and noted that Father Ryan’s campaign to delay the process has provoked a counterreaction among young Catholics who are eager to use the new missal.
Last fall, both the U.S. and the England and Wales bishops’ conferences gave their unanimous approval to the new translation. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy has been leading the translation work since 2002.
“Is this translation perfect? Of course not. No translation is,” Father Stravinskas wrote. “But we ought never make the best the enemy of the good. It is a vast improvement over the uninspiring, banal and all-too-often theologically problematic texts we have been using for nearly 40 years.”
Speaking to reporters in Rome Feb. 1, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, said the “fruitfulness” of the new translation cannot be judged until it is “spoken and prayed out loud.” “It is for prayerful proclamation in the solemnity of the liturgy, and that is the only context for which we should respond to it and enter into the spirit of the translation,” he said.
But he added: “We do appreciate that these texts contain and express the richness of the Catholic liturgical tradition of prayer in a way the texts we’ve been using so far failed to do, so we see a great deal to be gained in the richness of liturgical life [through the new translation], although we accept the path there is not going to be that easy.”
CNS contributed to this story.
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.