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The first archbishop of Westminster to have retired, Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor turned 80 yesterday, bringing the number of cardinal electors down to 118 and leaving England and Wales without a cardinal elector able to participate in a future conclave.
Born of Irish parents in Reading, young Cormac was one of four children. After a school career in Reading and Bath, he went to Rome in 1950 to study for the priesthood at the Venerable English College. He earned a degree in theology there, and went on to earn licentiates in philosophy and sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1956, he was ordained.
As a young priest, Father Murphy-O’Connor worked in Portsmouth and the surrounding area until 196, when he became the private secretary of Bishop Derek Worlock of Portsmouth. In 1970 followed an appointment as parish priest in Southampton, followed in late 1971 by a return to the Venerable English College, where Fr. Murphy-O’Connor became the new rector. With this appointment came the title of Monsignor in 1972.
In 1977, the aging Pope Paul VI appointed Msgr. Murphy-O’Connor as bishop of Arundel and Brighton. In his time as chief shepherd of that diocese, he worked much towards unity with the Anglican Church, which lead to him being awarded a Degree in Divinity by then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey. He later came under scrutiny regarding the presence of an abusive priest working in his diocese. In early 2000, Bishop Murphy-O’Connor became the tenth archbishop of Westminster, which led, one year later, to him being created a cardinal, with the title church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor was a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Bishops, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the Pontifical Council for the Study of Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See and the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for Culture. His most notable recent function was that of secretary of the Vox Clara commission which crafted the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Another high-profile task he was given was to oversee the recent Apostolic Visitation of the Archdiocese of Armagh and its suffragans in Ireland, in the wake of the abuse crisis breaking in that country.
In 2009, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor retired, the first archbishop of Westminster to live long enough to do so.
Photo credit: The Papal Visit on Facebook.
In a fairly unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI interfered in the affairs of a local bishops’ conference earlier this month, when he wrote a letter (translation) to the German Bishops’ Conference via Archbishop Robert Zollitsch (and through them also to the other bishops of the entire German speaking area).
Like other conferences, the bishops of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein are working on a new translation of the Roman Missal. Whereas the new English translation was launched last Advent, there are still many other languages awaiting new translations.
The issue that divides the German bishops and that prompted the pope to write a five-page letter, revolves around two words in the Eucharistic Prayer. The Latin, from which all translations are made, has the words “pro multis” to indicate for whom Jesus suffered and died. In the translations of the 1960s and 70s, this was rendered as “for all”, out of a wish to interpret the words in a way that would do most justice to the original. Or so translators thought. The Holy Father now indicates that this line of thought has since fallen out of favour and argues strongly against interpretative translations. Interpreting Scripture is one of the main tasks of the Church, but this should happen in the churches, by the bishops and the priests, not by the translators. Bishops and priests can react quickly and specifically to the needs to their specific faithful, whereas translations usually remain the same for years on end. Translation of Scripture and the canon of the Mass should therefore remain as literal as possible. “Pro multis”, then, should be translated as “for many”.
The letter goes into some detail about the questions that this change may give rise to, and also about the theological backgrounds of each choice. Although specifically directed at the German situation, the same arguments can and will be made in other countries, including the Netherlands, which still await a new translation.
Photo credit: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images
In an interview for Tertio, Cardinal Eijk spoke about a future new and more accurate translation of the Mass texts. Preciously little has been revealed about this project, which apparently is still ongoing. It’s good to now have some new information about the effort, even though the instruction calling for a revision of the existing texts dates from 2001.
Cardinal Eijk explained:
“Because our language area is not that big, we do not have very many experts available. The procedure takes a lot of time because there has to be a continuous exchange between the experts, the mixed committee in which two Dutch and two Flemish bishops have a seat, and the other bishops. Additionally, the pontifical instruction ‘Liturgiam Authenticam‘ expressly requires [a new translation] to be as faithful to the Latin source text as possible. That needs to be reconciled with a sufficiently fluent and understandable language in Dutch. That is not an easy task because there are a fair number of differences between northern and southern Dutch. For example, it is unlikely that we will be able to achieve a unified version of the Our Father.”
In the mixed committee for the new translation, Bishops Hans van den Hende, Antoon Hurkmans, Jozef De Kesel and Johan Bonny have a seat. But, now that the liturgy portfolio within the Dutch Bishops’ Conference has gone from Bishop Hurkmans to Bishop Liesen, the latter could conceivably take a seat in the committee.
In an article on the website of his archdiocese, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney briefly discusses the new English translation of the Roman Missal, the texts used in the Mass. He points out a few of the good reasons there have been for this new translation: “Not surprisingly therefore the new texts are more formal and less like the everyday speech used at a barbecue. They strive more effectively to evoke the mystery of God, while the translations from the Latin are accurate and precise, occasionally causing listeners to pause and think”, and puts to rest some of the concerns that some people had about perceived ‘difficult’ words: “People can and will learn a new word or two”.
In my own experience of the new translation, which may be heard in my own parish every vigil Mass on Saturday evening, is that the new translation (not ‘new texts’) are incomparably rich in sentence structure, vocabulary, and as such in meaning. For now, while the translations are still new, I often find myself taking in the words and sentences; not necessarily very prayerful, but on the other hand, it does let the ‘weight’ of the texts sink in, and that has its influence on how I experience the Mass. A positive influence, to be sure.
Cardinal Pell ends his article as follows:
“A single English Mass text [...] is an important achievement; appropriate too because English is the new Latin, the new universal language.”
I think we may read this as an invitation to read the new English translation as exemplary for our own translations. Like Latin, English serves as a universal language and therefore a touchstone for how we say things in other languages. That cause for the worlds of media, politics, culture, and certainly no less for the liturgy.
And, I must say, Cardinal Pell’s conclusion is also cause to wonder what is keeping a new Dutch translation from seeing the light of day.
Photo credit: Archdiocese of Sydney
Yesterday I heard the new English translation of the Mass for the first time. There is a regular Mass in English offered on Saturday evening in the parish I attend which uses booklets provided by the Archdiocese of Dublin. That diocese, like others in most English-speaking countries, have started to use parts of the new translation in recent weeks, and so, automatically, have we.
Sadly, no catechesis or explanation was offered for the new translations of the well-known regular replies and prayers of the liturgy. I am thinking if I can perhaps offer something through the media of the student chaplaincy I am involved with. Many of the faithful attending the English Mass are students, after all…
That’s something for after the weekend, though.
Of course, new texts focus the attention on the changes, especially when we’re not used to them yet. But that’s good. People should be well aware of the words they hear and speak in the Mass, because these are more than communication. They are also teaching us about who God is, what our relationship with Him is and what we do at Mass. It may sound logical and simple, but in reality it is not. At every Mass we should try to be aware of what we see, hear and do, because those actions directly communicate what we believe. Of course, we won’t succeed every time, but that’s no reason not to try.
Regular Mass attendance greatly helps with that, though. What may escape our attention – because we are busy mulling over some other words perhaps – at one Mass, may grab us at a subsequent one.
The opportunity to do just that, to mull over what we say and hear, is one of the great strengths of our Catholic worship, I think. We are not mindless automatons going through the motions. No, our worship is educational and transformative; in it, we hear the Lord speak to us and we speak to the Lord – sometimes directly, and at other times the priest does so on our behalf. And we must allow ourselves to be educated and transformed, and sometimes that means that we trust the priest to pray, to communicate, on our behalf, while we let some idea – from the readings, from the homily, from the Eucharistic prayer perhaps – sink in.
The liturgy of the Mass is rich. Very rich. It is virtually impossible to take it all in in one go. But we are not expected to do so. Sure, we should be focussed and attentive, but we are also called to attend the Mass on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, which allows us to become better acquainted with the liturgy, which in turn means that we can go on a journey of deeper understanding every time we attend Mass.
The new translation (and every non-Latin liturgy of the Mass is a translation of the original texts) is more accurate, which means that meanings are no longer hidden behind words, that we more clearly say what we believe, that we get closer to the heart of the matter, however inadequate our language sometimes is. Because a translation always remains a translation, and can therefore never be perfect. But we are also independent people who can take initiatives. Let the liturgy of the Mass, our words and those of the Lord, be an invitation to take initiatives in our hearts and minds, to learn, to understand and so to teach and be transformed. If not always in that order.
The Catholic World Report features an interesting interview with Francis Cardinal Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and considered by many to be papabile, a likely cardinal to become pope. In this interview, the cardinal speaks about the new liturgical translations in English, and other topics related to the ‘reform of the reform’.
Since work has begun on a new translation of the Dutch missal as well, I think this is relevant to the Church in the Netherlands and Flanders as well. That is why I provide a translation. Getting that translation on the blog cost me far more time than it should have, because the problems between Word and WordPress are seemingly insurmountable. It basically comes down to lots of invisible coding messing up the layout. But I managed to produce a text with proper layout by copying and pasting paragraphs one by one.
I like WordPress, but finding an answer to a problem is very difficult.