Sep 15, 2003

Cardinal Arinze Convenes Meeting with Bishops

Online Edition

– Vol. IX, No. 6: September 2003

Cardinal Arinze Convenes Meeting with Bishops

Translation, "inculturation", authority issues form agenda for October 21 meeting with presidents and liturgy officials of English-speaking bishops’ conferences

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

How to expedite the English translation of the new Roman Missal is but one of a list items on the agenda for a meeting at the Vatican of bishops who head English-speaking bishops’ conferences with the Holy See’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW). The meeting, convened by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the CDW, is to be held October 21 at the Vatican.

Most of the items on the preliminary agenda sent to bishops concern translation of liturgical texts, though matters of "inculturation" and the relative authority of the Holy See and bishops’ conferences are on the list.

In addition to bishops, members and staff of Liturgy Committees of the English-speaking conferences are also expected to attend.

The United States has three representatives on the CDW roster of members and consultors.

Cardinal Francis George

, a member of the CDW, is the chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL), and the US representative to ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy), the body that has produced most English-language translations to the present. (ICEL’s role has been the focus of considerable controversy for several years, and revised statutes for this "mixed commission" were approved by the US bishops’ conference in June.)

Archbishop Justin Rigali

(St. Louis ­ Philadelphia), is also a member of the CDW and a member of the Vox Clara committee on translations.

Monsignor James Moroney

, director of the BCL secretariat, is a consultor.

The agenda items for the October meeting are based in part on comments from bishops’ conferences — and appear to reflect persistent complaints by some bishops and liturgists of "undue interference" by the Holy See, which they believe undermines the autonomy of national conferences and of diocesan bishops in making liturgical changes, including revisions and re-translations of texts and local variations from liturgical norms.

Following is a list of the fourteen issues to be discussed:

1. The respective roles and competence of the CDW and bishops’ conferences;

2. Ways to promote more effective communication and consultation;

3. Inculturation matters, in the light of the new

Missale Romanum

and the 1994 Instruction on inculturation,

Varietates legitimae

, that urged caution in integrating local customs into the liturgy;

4. Ways to expedite the English translation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal;

5. The rationale of

Liturgiam authenticam

, the 2001 Instruction on liturgical translation, which called for more exact translations; and the Holy See’s role in the process of translation, including the right to make substantial changes to documents submitted by national conferences before granting final approval for their use in the Liturgy;

6. Clarification of respective areas of competence in

Liturgiam authenticam


7. Principals of translation in

Liturgiam authenticam


8. Canon law aspects of

Liturgiam authenticam


9. The functions of ICEL — which has 11 bishops’ conferences as full voting members, but creates English liturgical translations for all national Churches where English is spoken.

(Cardinal Arinze alluded to this restricted membership in ICEL in his criticism of draft ICEL statutes last year – see

"Cardinal Critiques ICEL Statutes"

, AB Dec-02/Jan-03, p. 7).

10. The significance of the


– the Holy See’s approval required for all translations and liturgical texts.

(Some bishops and liturgists argue that the recognitio has been too rigorously interpreted by the Holy See in recent years.)

11. The function of the

Vox Clara

committee of bishops, created by the Holy See in 2001 as an advisory body on English translations.

12. Expediting the Holy See’s examination of liturgical texts submitted by conferences.

(Some bishops have objected to the time it takes for review and approval of liturgical texts. The

Vox Clara

committee was intended, in part, to facilitate this process concerning English translations.)

13. The feasibility of a common English-language Lectionary, the book of selected Scripture readings for Mass.

(At present, each national conference chooses the Bible translation to be used for its Lectionary texts, prepares it, and is required it to submit it to the Holy See for approval before it can be used in the Liturgy. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approves biblical translations for use in the Liturgy, and rejected the "New Revised Standard Version", which was used for the Canadian Lectionary without prior approval.)

14. The need for an updated version of Documents on the Liturgy (DOL), an edition of English translations of official liturgical documents.

(The current DOL concludes with documents issued in 1979.)



Helen Hull Hitchcock

Helen Hull Hitchcock (1939-2014) was editor of the <em>Adoremus Bulletin</em>, which she co-founded. She was also the founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She published many articles and essays in a wide range of Catholic journals, and authored and edited <em>The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God</em> (Ignatius Press 1992), a collection of essays on issues involved in translation. She contributed essays to several books, including <em>Spiritual Journeys</em>, a book of “conversion stories” (Daughters of St. Paul). Helen lectured in the US and abroad, and appeared frequently on radio and television, representing Catholic teaching on issues affecting Catholic women, families, and Catholic faith and worship.