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Lack of consensus slows release of new Mass translation

A lack of consensus on a number of key points appears to have put back the likely release date of the long-awaited new English translation of the Mass.

The National Catholic Reporter's Rome correspondent John Allen had previously referred to the "breakneck speed" at which movement towards the new translation was proceeding. He referred to the optimistic prediction of Sydney's Cardinal George Pell that a new text could be ready as early as 2005.

But he has just reported on last week's Washington meeting of the 11 bishops who govern the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the translation body tasked with producing the text for the Mass.

He said that following the meeting, there remains a lack of consensus on several key issues.

It had appeared that Rome's Vox Clara committee - chaired by Cardinal Pell - had resolved disputes on a number of points including inclusive language. English-speaking bishops, Allen says, appeared to have little appetite for continuing resistance.

But Allen reports that now it is unlikely that the Order of Mass, or the core prayers for the celebration of the Eucharist, will be approved and published separately from the rest of the Roman Missal, the complete collection of Mass texts, as once seemed probable.

One outstanding issue remains the "people's parts" to the Mass, the lines spoken by the entire assembly. A controversial example: when the priest says "The Lord be with you," the assembly currently responds "And also with you." In keeping with the principle of fidelity to the Latin original, the draft had people saying instead, "And with your spirit."

Some critics saw this as indicative of a push for theological rigidity at the expense of natural English expression.

Some bishops are also concerned about the ecumenical implications of changes in the language of worship. Ecumenical observers say one of the signal ecumenical achievements in recent decades has been the adoption of common prayer texts in English by most of the major Christian denominations, and some bishops are reluctant to compromise that.

John L. Allen: The English translation of the Mass (National Catholic Reporter 6/8/04)

Pell says "liturgy wars" nearing end (CathNews 22/3/04)
Interview with Cardinal George Pell (National Catholic Reporter 11/3/04)
Cardinal Pell and Vox Clara (National Catholic Reporter 19/3/04)
Bishops respond to draft Mass translation (CathNews 14/5/04)
Priests predict possible backlash against new Mass text (CathNews 27/5/04)
UK Bishops rap The Tablet for publishing Mass draft (CathNews 26/5/04)
L.A. cardinal says Order of the Mass draft needs major work (Catholic News Service 12/5/04)
Commission says new Missal translation "off to good start" (CathNews 9/12/03)
Vatican prevails on the English Missal translation (CathNews 3/11/03)
Progress on liturgy - at a cost (The Tablet 1/11/03)
Rome refuses to bless English liturgy texts (CathNews 24/7/02)
Comment: John Allen's Interview of Cardinal Pell (

10 Aug 2004