Which English Translation to Use Abroad

Author: Father Edward McNamara, LC


Which English Translation to Use Abroad

ROME, 12 JULY 2011 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: At least two new English translations of the Roman Missal will be put into use this year. England and Wales will implement their translation in September; the United States will implement its in November. My question regards which translation should be used for Masses in English when celebrating in Rome. Are the translations the same? Is one to be preferred? — J.M., Rome

A: Although this question specifically refers to Rome, which has some special characteristics, its scope is wider than the Eternal City. It is of interest in all places where Mass in English is celebrated in countries where English is not an official liturgical language.

By the end of the current year most native English-speaking countries will have introduced the new translation of the Roman Missal.

In English-speaking countries, and in countries that use English in the liturgy as a common second language, the bishops' conferences either publish their own missal or determine which version is to be used. These countries roughly correspond to the full and associate members of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). The full members are: Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland, South Africa and the United States. Associate members are: the Antilles, Bangladesh, CEPAC (Pacific Islands), Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia-Singapore, Malawi, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. With rare exceptions, only the approved Missal is permitted for use within the country.

For all other countries a priest who celebrates Mass in English may use any approved version of the new English-language missal.

Exceptions to this general rule of thumb would be Masses celebrated in embassies, extraterritorial military bases, or the various national colleges in Rome which naturally use the missal of their respective countries. They are also usually allowed to use the calendar and particular liturgical uses of the home country. Parishes set up to attend to the needs of particular nationalities may also do likewise.

At the same time, the differences in the versions are slight and on most days the missals would be perfectly interchangeable.

The differences between the missal of one country and another usually involve the particular adaptations of each bishops' conference to either the text of the missal, the liturgical calendar and the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

There are relatively few variations from one country to another in the ordinary of the Mass and in the texts that are common to the entire Church. Among variations approved for the United States are additional prayers for the penitential rite and allowing for the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday.

More common are the national propers: collections of orations and formularies for feasts and commemorations proper to each nation. Instances of such celebrations are St. George in England, St. Patrick in Ireland (as a solemnity), Our Lady Help of Christians in Australia, and special formularies for Independence Day in the United States.

Individual missals may also have texts for special celebrations such as the Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life, which can be celebrated on Jan. 22 in the United States.
Adaptations to the General Instruction also vary from country to country. Such variations are generally incorporated into the text of the GIRM itself prefixed with the phrase: "In the diocese of Country X." The United States has many adaptations regarding elements such as the choice of music for Mass, kneeling for the Eucharistic Prayer, standing for Communion, Communion under both kinds, materials for sacred furnishings and vessels, the vesture of lay ministers, the use of white for funerals and silver and gold for solemn feasts, and the use of instruments other than the organ for the liturgy.

Under normal circumstances such particular liturgical law is local and applies only to the country for which it has been approved.

One must usually follow the calendar of the country of celebration, irrespective of the language in which the Mass is celebrated. Thus using the Irish missal in Florence or Berlin does not convert St. Patrick's Day into a solemnity.

Nor do general permissions granted by the Holy See to a national conference travel with the missal. For example, it is always necessary to investigate the local norms regarding such things as the faculty to distribute Communion under both species, since these fall under the authority of the local bishop.

On the other hand, laws which simply codify existing customs but do not change the universal law may be followed. Thus U.S. citizens could continue to practice kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer during a European pilgrimage even though this might not be common practice in a particular country.

* * *

Follow-up: Which English Translation to Use Abroad [7-26-2011]

As a corollary to our reflections on the use of the new English translation in non-English-speaking countries (see July 12), there was an earlier related question from a reader in Israel. He asked: "When Mass is celebrated in English in a non-English-speaking country, by priests who are not native speakers of English or under the authority of a bishop from an English-speaking country, how is it determined which English-language lectionary to use?"

I would say that the choice of lectionary would follow the same basic principles as the choice of missal. In other words, any lectionary currently approved for liturgical use may be used in the non-English-speaking country.

There are several approved lectionaries. Most English-speaking countries use the original Jerusalem Bible with some adaptations, such as the use of "Lord" or "God" instead of "Yahweh." The United States uses an adapted version of the New American Bible. Canada has temporary permission to use the New Revised Standard Version, even though the Holy See did not approve this Bible for liturgical use. The Antilles use a lectionary based on a second edition of the Revised Standard Version, published by Ignatius Press. Many consider this the best contemporary translation, and it is the only lectionary which corresponds exactly to a Bible translation currently in print.

The exceptions would be those mentioned in the original article: National colleges or parishes, embassies, overseas military bases and similar places would use the lectionary approved in each respective country.

Although not obligatory, it is pastoral good sense to prefer the lectionary with which the majority of those assisting at Mass have greater familiarity.

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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