New translation reaches critical Mass

At every service in every Catholic church in Australia, the Mass begins the same way it has done for 40 years. The priest says ''The Lord be with you'', and the people reply ''and also with you'', writes Barney Swartz in the Age.

It has been this way since the great reforming Vatican Council of the 1960s voted to allow the Mass to be spoken in English (and other local languages) rather than just Latin. But from June, the people will reply ''and with your spirit''.

This change is part of a new translation of the Latin words of the service that later this year will be compulsory at every Mass in English across the globe. On the surface, this might seem a minor matter, but to many on both the progressive and traditional sides of the divide, the words of the Mass - called the ''liturgy'' - are the most important battleground in their long-standing culture wars.

This liturgy debate raises two profound and fundamental questions: to whom does the church belong, people or Pope? How much, if at all, should the church adjust itself to the modern world?

These have been the questions underlying the various battles fought over the role of laypeople (especially women), contraception, celibacy, homosexuality, papal authority, sex abuse and more.

But to both sides the Mass is the most important because it is the main symbol of the changes introduced at the Vatican Council and because, as part of the weekly life of Mass-goers, it is at the very core of their Catholic identity.

In the early 1980s the translation of the Mass was entrusted to a commission representing the 11 English-speaking bishops conferences. But in 2001 the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, which has ultimate approval, changed the guidelines to demand a much more literal translation from the Latin.

To advise the Congregation, it appointed a committee of conservative bishops headed by Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney.

The new version has now been completed and made available to the wider church. It will be introduced gradually in Australia between June 12 (Pentecost Sunday) and November 1. Debate over its merits has been increasingly waspish, ranging from fury and dismay to triumphalism.

FULL STORY Mass discontent (The Age) 

How the good guys won the battle over the new Missal (Catholic Herald)

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