16 October 2017, The Tablet

Cardinal Sarah insists his Congregation has final authority over liturgical translations

Sarah has said Francis’ recent reforms on translating the Mass does not mean the Vatican’s approval of them is a “formality”

Cardinal Sarah insists his Congregation has final authority over liturgical translations

The Vatican’s divine worship prefect has stressed the Holy See retains the power to “impose” certain liturgical translations to ensure they are in keeping with the Latin original. 

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, says that Pope Francis’ recent reforms giving more power to bishops' conferences on translating the Mass does not mean the Vatican’s approval of them is simply a “formality.” A new law issued last month by the Pope now gives bishops responsibility to “faithfully” prepare and “approve” translations but requires confirmation from Rome.

But in an article published in the French Catholic publication 'L’Homme Nouveau' the cardinal stresses his department still has the ability to insist that certain words or phrases are used in translations.

“So, for example, if, in the Creed of the Order of Mass, the expression: ‘consubstantialem Patri’ is translated in English by: “one in Being with the Father”, the Holy See may impose – and even must impose – the translation: ‘consubstantial with the Father’, as a condition sine qua non of its ‘confirmatio' of the entirety of the Roman Missal in English,” the cardinal stressed. 

He went on to liken the relationship between the Holy See and bishops on the liturgy to that of a parent towards a child’s homework or an academic supervisor to a student. 

“We naturally turn to another person to “evaluate” the work that we have done to the best of our abilities; in this way we can improve our work using his observations, or even his corrections, should they prove to be necessary,” he writes. “Such is the responsibility of a professor towards a student preparing his thesis, or, more simply, of parents towards their children’s homework, and also, more generally, of academic authorities and supervisors 

The Pope’s new legislation, 'Magnum Principium' was designed to insure that the process of translating the Mass into vernacular languages is in keeping with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council which handed this task to local hierarchies. 

Since the council there have been a series of attempts to centralise the translation process, which saw Vatican officials editing, and re-writing the work of bishops' conferences.

The liturgy prefect’s article shows that liturgical reform will remain a finely balanced process between the Vatican and local churches, although Francis’ reforms have already emboldened some bishops.

Following the Pope’s changes, the German hierarchy appears to have abandoned a new German version of the missal which had been produced using older guidelines and had yet to be approved.

This had been produced following the guidelines established by 'Liturgiam Authenticam', the Congregation for Divine Worship’s 2001 document which called for more literal translations of the Latin into the vernacular. It sought to correct the earlier approach known as “dynamic equivalence” where a translation took place according to the sense of words and phrases. 

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, has described “Liturgiam Authenticam” as a “dead end” and said it took “too narrow a view”. 

Cardinal Sarah, however, stressed that “Liturgiam Authenticam” still stands and there is “no noticeable change regarding the imposed standards” set out by that text.

The cardinal’s number two, Archbishop Arthur Roche, has also pointed out in an article explaining the Pope’s reforms that the principles of this 2001 document remain in place. 

Cardinal Sarah has appeared to be at odds with the Pope on the liturgy, with Francis issuing him with a rare rebuke last year after the cardinal suggested priests should turn east and celebrate Mass "ad orientem". 

The Pope is also increasingly turning to Archbishop Roche as his point man on the liturgy: this morning the Pope met with the former Bishop of Leeds at the papal residence, the Casa Santa Marta.  

It was the archbishop who Francis asked to lead a low-key commission examining 'Liturgiam Authenticam', and Archbishop Roche who wrote an official explanatory article on 'Magnum Principium.'

PICTURE: Cardinal Sarah is pictured in the Vatican  

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