19 March 2015, The Tablet

Vatican archbishop rules out 1998 Mass translation

A Vatican archbishop has ruled out the possibility of Catholics being able to use a different English translation of the Mass. 

There have been growing calls for the 1998 version to be made available as critics are unhappy with the current missal text which is judged clunky, awkward, and a too literal translation of the Latin.

The 1998 text was approved by English-speaking bishops’ conferences after 17 years of work. It was, however, rejected by the Vatican and a revised translation, introduced in November 2011, was then implemented.

But Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship, said using a different English version of the missal could not happen. 

The archbishop told The Tablet that the Roman liturgy “expresses the unity of the entire Church” and that while the 1998 version translated the 1975 Roman Missal, a new Latin Missal was introduced in 2002 thus making the 1998 edition outdated.

Archbishop Roche, who as Chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) oversaw the introduction of the current English Mass text, also said that "the principles governing the translation of liturgical texts of the Roman Rite had altered by 2001 which would have, in any case, required a new translation of the Roman Missal."

He was referring to the document Liturgiam Authenticam whch called for translations to convey the "integral manner" of the original Latin "even while being verbally or syntactically different from it."  

This week, a former chairman of ICEL said many Catholics are dissatisfied with the current Mass text and should be allowed to use the 1998 version.

The Bishop Emeritus of Galloway, Maurice Taylor, who was in charge of ICEL from 1997-2002 said“Many people are dissatisfied and unhappy with the present translation which we have to use. Our bishops have an opportunity to remedy the situation by asking the Holy See to grant its recognitio of the 1998 translation, a text that was approved by all the English speaking bishops’ conferences which are full members of ICEL."

He added: “A precedent for having a choice of approved translations of the Missal already exists. Those who prefer to continue with the [2011] Missal, on grounds of either taste or expense, would do so; others would opt for the 1998 translation."

In The Tablet earlier this month Jesuit theologian Fr Gerald O'Collins  wrote an open letter to English-speaking bishops, urging them to press for adoption of the 1998 text.

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