VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican is not to
"impose" a specific liturgical translation on bishops' conferences,
but rather is called to recognize the bishops' authority and expertise in
determining the best way to faithfully translate Latin texts into their local
languages, Pope Francis said in a letter to Cardinal Robert Sarah.
In the letter, released by the Vatican Oct. 22, Pope Francis
said he wanted to correct several points made in a "commentary,"
which Cardinal Sarah sent him and which was published on several websites in a
variety of languages.
Cardinal Sarah is prefect of the Congregation for Divine
Worship and the Sacraments. The pope's letter noted that most of the websites
"erroneously" cited Cardinal Sarah as the author of the commentary.
The commentary looked at changes Pope Francis made to the
Code of Canon Law in the process for approving liturgical translations. The
changes were ordered in the pope's document, "Magnum Principium"
("The Great Principle"), which was published Sept. 9 and went into
effect Oct. 1.
Pope Francis, saying he wanted to "avoid any
misunderstanding," insisted the commentary could give an erroneous impression
that the level of involvement of the congregation remained unchanged.
However, while in the past "the judgment regarding the
fidelity to the Latin and the eventual corrections necessary was the task of
the congregation," the pope said, "now the norm concedes to episcopal
conferences the faculty of judging the worth and coherence of one or another
term in translations from the original, even if in dialogue with the Holy
The commentary attributed to Cardinal Sarah insisted on the
ongoing validity of the norms for translation contained in "Liturgiam
Authenticam," the congregation's 2001 instruction on translations.
But Pope Francis, in his letter, said the changes to canon
law take precedence, and "one can no longer hold that translations must
conform in every point to the norms of 'Liturgiam Authenticam' as was done in
The texts for Mass and other liturgies must receive a
confirmation from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, the
pope said, but this "no longer supposes a detailed, word by word
examination, except in obviously cases that can be presented to the bishops for
Pope Francis also wrote to the cardinal that the
"fidelity" called for in translations has three layers: "first,
to the original text; to the particular language into which it is being
translated; and, finally, to the intelligibility of the text" by the
The new process, the pope said, should not lead "to a
spirit of 'imposition' on the episcopal conferences of a translation done by
the congregation," but should promote cooperation and dialogue.