The English and Welsh bishops’ conference has decreed that in the translation of the conclusion of collects in the Roman Missal, “one” is to be omitted before “God.” The conclusions will now read “God, for ever and ever.”
The decision follows a letter sent earlier in 2020 by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, addressing a concern about the English translation.
A November 9 decree signed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, and Father Christopher Thomas, the president and general secretary, respectively, of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, notes that “until now” in the three formulae of conclusions to collects, “the Latin words ‘Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum’ are rendered in English as ‘one God, for ever and ever.’”
“The addition of ‘one’ before ‘God’ in the conclusion of the Collects could be construed as mistaken and problematic. ‘Deus’ here refers to the earlier mention of ‘the Son’ and is a Christological, anti-Arian affirmation, and not directly Trinitarian in this context,” the decree states.
The bishops of England and Wales voted “that these formulae should be adjusted, according with the removal of the word ‘one’ from the conclusion of the Collect.”
The most common formula, used when a collect is addressed to the Father, will read: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”
The correction took effect in the dioceses of England and Wales on November 29, 2020, the First Sunday of Advent.
An explanatory note added that the decision is “in harmony” with the bishops’ conferences in Scotland and Ireland, “as well as with other English-speaking territories.”
The addition of “one” before “God” “could serve to undermine the statement of the unique dignity of the Son within the Trinity,” or “could be interpreted as saying that Jesus is ‘one God,’” the explanatory note stated. “Either or both of these interpretations is injurious to the faith of the Church.”
Continuing, the note said that the insertion of “one” before God “risks suggesting that Jesus became a god independent of the Blessed Trinity and is one god among many…. [W]hat we pray needs to express what the Church believes, requiring that, in liturgical formulae, we uphold the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity.”
The Trinitarian doxology that concludes the collects “emphasizes the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who as the Incarnate Son, intercedes on our behalf to the Father, …thus, the Son’s role of priestly mediation is made clear.”
The explanatory note says the phrase was adopted in the fourth century “as a means to combat the Arian heresy,” which held that Jesus Christ became God, rather than having been God eternally.
Moreover, the note adds, “one” is not used in the translations of the conclusion in French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese: “The English translation has, therefore, diverged from those of other major language groups.”
The executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, Father Andrew Menke, told CNA that Cardinal Sarah’s letter has been discussed by the conference’s divine worship committee, who “will probably discuss the question again” at their next meeting, in January.