Liturgy: Pope’s Letter to Cardinal Sarah (Unabridged Translation)

The Holy See Doesn’t Impose a Translation on Episcopal Conferences

© L'Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY, OCTOBER 22, 2017 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See must not impose the  translation of liturgical texts in vernacular language on the Episcopal Conferences, states Pope Francis in a letter addressed to Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, published by the Vatican on October 22, 2017.

The Holy Father refers also to his Motu Proprio Magnum Principium” (MP) on liturgical translations, effecting a slight modification of the formulations of the Code of Canon Law of the Latin Catholic Church (Canon 838, paragraphs 2 and 3) which came into force on October 1, 2017. He emphasizes the “clear difference” that the new Motu Proprio establishes between recognitio (verification) and confirmatio (confirmation).

He recalls the “right” of Episcopal Conferences to make their translations and their “responsibility” to judge the fidelity of their translations. Finally, he stresses that the Holy See’s confirmatio “is granted after the version has been submitted to the Apostolic See for ratification of the Bishops’ approval, in a spirit of dialogue and of aid to the reflection, if its necessary,” and respecting the rights and duties of the Bishops.

Here is an unabridged translation of the Pope’s letter.

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Pope Francis’ Letter

 To His Eminence

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and

the Discipline of the Sacraments

Vatican City

Eminence,

I received your letter of this past September 30, by which you generously wished to express your gratitude for the publication of the Motu Proprio Magnum Principium and transmit to me the “Commentary” note, elaborated on the subject for a better understanding of the text.

On thanking you earnestly for your contribution, I permit myself to express simply, and I hope clearly, some observations on the above mentioned note, which I believe are important especially for the implementation and correct understanding of the Motu Proprio and to avoid any ambiguity.

It is necessary to stress first the importance of the clear difference that the new MP establishes between recognitio and confirmatio, well established in paragraphs 2 and 3 of canon 838, to repeal the practice, adopted by the Dicastery following Liturgiam authenticam (LA), and that the new Motu Proprio wished to modify.  Consequently, one cannot say that recognitio and confirmatio are “closely synonyms (or) interchangeable,” or that they “are interchangeable at the level of the Holy See’s responsibility.”

In reality the new canon 838, through the distinction between recognitio and confirmatio, affirms the different responsibility of the Apostolic See in the exercise of these two actions, as well as that of the Episcopal Conferences. Magnum Principium no longer holds that the translations must be in conformity on all points with the norms of Liturgiam authenticam, as was done in the past. It is why each number of the LA must be carefully re-included, including nn. 79-84, in order to distinguish what is required by the Code for the translation and what is required for legitimate adaptations. Thus it is clear that certain numbers of LA were repealed or were rendered out-dated and reformulated by the new canon of MP (for example n. 76 and also n. 80).

In regard to the responsibility of Episcopal Conferences to translate “fideliter,” it is necessary to specify that the judgment on fidelity to the Latin, and the eventual necessary corrections, is carried out by the Dicastery, while today the norm grants the Episcopal Conferences the faculty to judge the goodness and the coherence of one and other terms in the translations of the original, when also in dialogue with the Holy See. Therefore, the confirmatione implies a more detailed examination word by word, except in obvious cases that can be indicated to the Bishops for a further reflection. This is true in particular for the major formulas as well as the Eucharistic Prayers and in particular the sacramental formulas approved by the Holy Father. Moreover, the confirmatio takes into account the integrity of the book, namely, that it verify that all the parts that make up the typical edition were translated [1]

Here one can add that, in the light of MP, the “fideliter” of paragraph 3 of the canon, implies a threefold fidelity: to the original text in primis; to the particular language into which it is translated and finally to the intelligibility of the text for the recipients (Cf. Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani nn. 391-392).

In this connection, the recognitio indicates only the verification and safeguarding of the conformity to the law and to the communion of the Church. The process of translating the important liturgical texts (for example the sacramental formulas, the Creed, the Pater noster) into a language – in which they are considered as authentic translations – must not lead to a spirit of “imposition” on the Episcopal Conferences of a translation given <or> made by the Dicastery, because that would harm the right of Bishops established by the canon already earlier by the SC 36, paragraph 4. Of the rest, one keeps present the analogy with canon 825, paragraph 1 on the version of the Holy Scripture that does not need confirmatio on the part of the Apostolic See.

It is inexact to attribute to the confirmatio the finality of the recognitio (that is to “verify and safeguard the conformity to the law”).  The confirmatio is certainly not a simply formal act, but necessary for the “translated” edition of the liturgical book: it is granted after the version has been submitted to the Apostolic See for the ratification of the approval of the Bishops, in a spirit of dialogue and of aid to reflection, if it is deemed necessary, and on respecting the rights and duties, on considering the lawfulness of the process followed and of its modalities. [2]

Finally, Eminence, I confirm my fraternal gratitude for your engagement and given that the “Commentary” note was published on certain Internet sites and wrongly attributed to your person, I ask you please to do what is necessary for the divulgation of my response on those sites as well as for sending it to all the Episcopal Conferences, <and> to the Members and Consultors of this Dicastery.

And on asking your prayer for me, I assure you of mine for you!

Fraternally,

Francis

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[1] Magnum principium: “The aim of the translations of liturgical and biblical texts for the Liturgy of the Word, is to proclaim to the faithful the word of salvation in obedience to the faith and to express the prayer of the Church to the Lord. In this aim it is necessary to communicate faithfully to a specific people, thanks to its own language, what the Church heard communicated by another grace to the Latin language. Although fidelity cannot always be judged by isolated words but must be in the context of every act of communication and according to the proper literary genre, nevertheless certain particular terms must be considered also in the context of the integral Catholic faith, so that each translation of the liturgical texts is in agreement with the holy doctrine.”

[2] Magnum principium: “Attention must be given without exception to the usefulness and good of the faithful, and not forget the right and the charge of the Episcopal Conferences that, with the Episcopal Conferences of the regions that have the same language, and with the Apostolic See, must establish that, in keeping the character of each language, the meaning of the original text must be fully and faithfully transmitted and that the translated liturgical books, also after the adaptations, must always reflect the unity of the Roman rite.”

ZENIT translation by Virginia M. Forrester

 JF

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