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 CNS Story:

SAFRICA-TRANSLATIONS Mar-4-2009 (860 words) xxxi

Southern African bishops seek Vatican OK to keep new Mass translations

By Bronwen Dachs
Catholic News Service

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference said it made a mistake in giving the go-ahead to parishes to use Vatican-approved Mass translations, but it has asked the Vatican to allow continued use of the texts.

In a March 4 statement the conference said it awaits a response from the Vatican. It told parishes in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland that already have begun using the translations to continue using them and said those that have not yet made the changes should wait until further notice.

Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, president of the bishops' conference, received a letter Feb. 25 from the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, asking that use "of the new English text of the Roman Missal be halted until the (translation) process had been finalized internationally and all English-speaking churches could implement the new translation at the same time," the bishops' statement said.

The bishops' statement added: "Normally a 'recognitio' (permission) given by the congregation approves a text for implementation at a time determined by the bishops' conference. In this case, the 'recognitio' approved the text, but only for catechesis of the people and the preparation of music for the rite and not for immediate implementation."

The bishops' conference "has explained the situation to the Vatican and has requested that their decision be allowed to stand," said the bishops' statement, issued by Father Vincent Brennan, general secretary of the bishops' conference and a member of the Society of African Missions.

"The bishops regret the confusion that may have arisen," the statement said. "They ask for patience and they pray that the misunderstanding that has arisen will not take away from the prayerful and joyful celebration of the Mass in English. They wish to point out that the only issue in dispute is the date of implementation, not the text itself."

In parishes where the change in the translation of the Order of the Mass has been implemented, it has met with some resistance and stirred controversy.

In a Feb. 22 article in The Southern Cross, South Africa's Catholic weekly, Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban said the English in the new texts "is quite clearly seeking to restore the reality of the spiritual to our thinking and practice."

"The trouble with the current debate on English in the liturgy is that it has been allowed to deviate from the rules, with many choosing to play the man rather than the ball," Cardinal Napier said, using a sports analogy. "Indeed, some have not even bothered to learn the rules before joining in the free-for-all that this has become."

The cardinal said that while earlier Mass translations were done under the translation principle of dynamic equivalence, which does not need to stick closely to the original words, the more recent translations use the principle of literal equivalence, as specified in the 2001 Vatican guidelines on translations, "Liturgiam Authenticam" ("The Authentic Liturgy").

"This explains why the English of the new Order of the Mass is so much closer to the Latin," Cardinal Napier said.

In a recent editorial, The Southern Cross said that since the changes were introduced in late 2008 the newspaper had received "a flood of letters."

"Almost all of them are angry; none gave the revised version unqualified support. One correspondent, in a passage excised from the published version, went as far as writing: 'I hate you, hierarchy.' Feelings are running deep indeed," the newspaper said.

"The anger of the people in the pews and many priests (and some bishops) seems to be rooted not so much in what they feel are anachronistic and clumsy translations -- vexing though they appear to be to many -- but in what they see as an arbitrary imposition of liturgical values that are foreign to them by faceless bureaucrats in distant Rome," the editorial said.

In a Jan. 18 letter to The Southern Cross, Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg said his first reaction to the new texts "was that it was a purely arbitrary decision to demand that the English text had to faithfully represent the Latin in the first place, that many of the changes made no sense, and that some of the formulations were simply bad English."

"I have the impression that some people, perhaps many, think that this idea about conforming to a Latin text and the new translations itself were the work of the (bishops' conference), and therefore their opposition has to be directed at the bishops out here. Fair enough. But in view of fully conveying what actually happened, it must be understood that this new translation was imposed on us by the Vatican and the group with which it worked at that level," Bishop Dowling said.

Translations of Mass parts are first prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL, a joint commission of most of the world's English-speaking bishops' conferences. After being approved by individual bishops' conferences, the translations are reviewed by the Vox Clara Committee, a Vatican-appointed group that advises the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, before a Vatican "recognitio" is granted.


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