Pope Francis gives local Bishops authority over liturgical texts

liturgical texts

Pope Francis has shifted the weight of responsibility for liturgical translations away from the Vatican.

From now on the major responsibility for liturgical texts will lie with bishops’ conferences.

However, the Vatican still has the last say on translations because it still has the responsibility to ensure the unity of the faith.

The changes will block any future attempts by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) to unilaterally enforce compliance in the future.

The Pope has made these changes by means of a motu proprio called Magnum Principium.

A motu proprio (on his own impulse) is a special document, or apostolic letter, issued by the Pope on his own initiative and signed by him.

Magnum Principium alters the wording of Canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law regarding the translation of liturgical texts into modern languages.

It also says the CDWDS will modify its own rules and regulations and will help the episcopal conferences to fulfill their task.

There is of subtlety about the changes in Canon 838. Many ordinary Catholics may not readily grasp their significance.

The key changes are the addition of two words “approve” and “faithfully”.

The changes suggest the bishops conferences are trusted both to do their work faithfully and to approve it.

However, Francis has been careful to insist the basic principle of ensuring translations into the vernacular languages are faithful to the Latin original remains in force.

Archbishop Roche notes the confirmation of translations needed from the Vatican “should not be seen as an alternative intervention in the process of translation, but rather as an authoritative act by which the competent Dicastery ratifies the approval of the bishops.”

Roche is the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) . He has written a letter: A key to reading the Motu Proprio “Magnum Principium” to accompany the motu proprio.


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