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End is near for missal translation

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WASHINGTON - Nearly six years after beginning the task, the U.S. bishops hope to conclude their work on the English translation and U.S. adaptations of the Roman Missal first introduced in Latin in 2002.

The final five action items related to the missal will come before the bishops at their fall general meeting Nov. 16-19 in Baltimore. Each must be approved by two-thirds of the Latin-rite members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, then must go to the Vatican for confirmation.

The first drafts of the missal translation, prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, arrived at the bishops' conferences of English-speaking countries in 2004. The current English version of the Roman Missal was adopted shortly after the Second Vatican Council.

The items to be debated and voted on in Baltimore are:

- The proper of saints, a collection of specific prayers to each saint included in the universal liturgical calendar.

- The commons, a collection of general prayers for celebrating saints listed in the "Roman Martyrology" who are not included in the universal calendar.

- The Roman Missal supplement, which provides additional prayers and formularies for recently canonized saints as well as the order for an extended vigil for Pentecost.

- The U.S. propers, a collection of orations and formularies for the feasts, memorials and commemorations particular to the U.S. liturgical calendar, including two sets of prayers for Independence Day.

- U.S. adaptations to the Roman Missal which are included in the current Sacramentary but need to be approved again with the new text.

"These five items will conclude the work of the U.S. bishops on the Roman Missal," said Msgr. Anthony Sherman, executive director of the USCCB Office of Divine Worship, in a news release.

While awaiting Vatican approval of all sections of the missal, the U.S. church will begin "a process of catechesis, ... so that everyone is ready to move along when we get the final text from the Vatican."

To help both priests and the people prepare for the changes, the USCCB has posted catechetical materials at www.usccb.org/romanmissal.

Once the revised missal is in use, both priests and people will have to get used to changes in the Mass.

The Nicene Creed, for example, will read in part: "I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, ... begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father."

That section of the Nicene Creed currently reads: "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, ... begotten not made, one in being with the Father."

In the Agnus Dei, the people will say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." At present they say: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

Although the ICEL translations have been heavily amended by the U.S. bishops, controversy continues over some elements of the translation.

Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., who headed the bishops' liturgy committee when the approval process began, recently criticized what he called the "slavishly literal" translations from the original Latin.

He said in an Oct. 22 speech at The Catholic University of America in Washington that the "sacred language" used by translators "tends to be elitist and remote from everyday speech and frequently not understandable." The new missal could lead to a "pastoral disaster," he added.

"The vast majority of God's people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like 'ineffable,' 'consubstantial,' 'incarnate,' 'inviolate,' 'oblation,' 'ignominy,' 'precursor,' 'suffused' and 'unvanquished.' The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic," Bishop Trautman said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009