Bishop in Wales Comments on New Latin Edition of Roman Missal

«The Work of Translation Will Take Time»

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LONDON, MARCH 22, 2002 ( Following the publication in Rome of the new Latin edition of the Roman Missal, Bishop Mark Jabalé of Menevia, chairman of the Department of Christian Life and Worship of the Bishops´ Conference of England and Wales, issued this statement Thursday.

Egyptian-born Bishop Jabalé made an official visit to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments last week and met with its prefect, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, who presented him a copy of the missal.

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On behalf of the Bishops´ Conference of England and Wales, I warmly welcome the publication in Rome of the 3rd Typical Edition of the Roman Missal.

The Roman Missal is the book used every time the Church gathers to celebrate the Mass, to meet afresh with the living Lord, to be fed by him in word and sacrament. It is especially on the Lord´s Day we gather for these celebrations, and make use of the prayers and guidance for celebration that this book offers. But many thousands of us in England and Wales use it each day when we gather for daily Mass. We use it again in the times of worship when we welcome new members into our community. It is a book we use again and again as we gather to mark special events in our personal lives and in the life of our community and nation. It is the book that services our common prayer in time of praise and joy and in times of sorrow and struggle.

The Missal currently in use in our parishes is a book produced as one of the first fruits of the renewal of our liturgy called for at the Second Vatican Council. That Missal was published in 1970. It has been in use now for over 30 years. Our parishes have used that edition as they have begun to adapt to the challenges of celebrating liturgy very differently. It was during the 1960s and ´70s that Catholics became used to their weekly liturgy being celebrated in English, came to value the increased place of the Scriptures in our worship, came to see the importance of more and more people taking an active ministerial role in our celebrations, as ministers of word and music and communion. We learnt to receive communion under both kinds, as the Lord asks us to. We learnt the importance of the full active and conscious participation in the liturgy that Vatican II says is the right and the obligation of all the baptised. We learnt afresh of how that participation begins with the things we see and do, and continues in the hearts, the minds, the very lives of those who know and meet the Lord in the Church´s Liturgy.

Now is the time for integrating the fruits of that experience into our liturgical books. Since 1991 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has taken up the challenge of revising the Missal to this end. Calling upon the pastoral wisdom of Churches throughout the world the Congregation has produced not just a new edition of the Missal, but a new typical edition.

A typical edition of a liturgical book is the Latin text established as the text to be followed in all the Churches of the Roman Rite. As already noted it is now usual for Catholics to worship in their own tongue, so the Latin text has to be translated. But that Latin text serves as the paradigm for all such translations, and the art of the translator is to ensure that the translation benefits from the genius of the local language and is wholly faithful to the Latin original. The English speaking Church has learnt much over recent years about how best to fulfil the challenge of translation. It will proceed to the current task with enthusiasm and dedication.

The Missal is a great treasure house of prayers. These all require translating. Even the many texts unchanged from the previous edition will be reconsidered, seeing whether a richer and more faithful translation can now be provided. There are also many new texts. Some of these too are familiar from supplementary booklets issued over the years — such as the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and for Masses with Children. Some are retrieved from the preconciliar Missal — such as those texts offered for Masses praying for a contrite heart, and for continence. Others are entirely new texts such as a new Preface for Martyrs, and Propers composed for the many saints newly added to the Calendar.

But the Third Edition of the Missal offers much more than prayers alone. Indeed perhaps the most important single contribution it makes is in its revision of the General Introduction. These introductory pages guide the ministers of the Church in the art of celebration. There is much here for our parishes to reflect on, much for us all to learn from. It is important that we do so, so that our worship may be faithful to the tradition of the Church, that the fundamental truths of faith are not obscured. In the learning that has taken place over the past years, sometimes we have picked up bad habits too. Study of the revised General Introduction by bishops, priests, deacons and laity will help ensure that the richness of authentic celebration is not compromised by our sticking to practices which do not best serve the needs of the Church.

The new Missal offers the Church throughout the world a chance to pause and take her bearings afresh, and enter with ever greater joy into the worship of God.

But before the new Missal reaches the parishes of the world there is much work to be done. There is obviously the work of translation. There is also the work of ensuring the edition of the Missal produced for use in each local Church is adapted as necessary for the conditions of that Church. This work of adaptation is anticipated by the Holy See. An innovation of the Third Typical Edition is Chapter Nine of the General Instruction which explicitly calls the attention of all to the need for this work, anticipated at Vatican II, and mandated in various Instructions of the Holy See, such as Varietates legitimate and most recently Liturgiam authenticam.

The work of translation will take time. The work of adaptation too. Each Conference of Bishops must carefully consider what particular contribution it might make to best serve the spiritual good of the local Church. Some of the matters are relatively straight forward — for example the Conference of Bishops is asked to consider whether the traditional way of a priest or deacon venerating the altar and book of the Gospels by a kiss is in harmony with our culture. The answer is surely it is. Others need more thought and discernment on the part of the bishops — for example the Conference of Bishops is invited to consider establishing norms regarding the manner by which Holy Communion is distributed under both kinds.

Once this work has been completed, and there is a text which meets the needs of the Church in England and Wales, the Bishops´ Conference will submit it to Rome for its formal recognition, its confirmation that this is truly the prayer of the Church rendered in a form fitting for the Church in England and Wales, and at one with the prayer of the whole Church. That day of the granting of that formal recognitio will not be very soon — it is likely to be as much as two years away — but on that day as on this there will be much thanksgiving for work well done.

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