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Bishops’ liturgy official: English priests will adapt to new translation

The new translation of the Roman Missal as presented to Pope Benedict XVI (Photo: CNS)

Church authorities in England and Wales say they do not expect resistance to the new translation of the Roman Missal when it is introduced in September.

Martin Foster, the acting secretary of the bishops’ liturgy committee, said he did not anticipate that the new translation would provoke the same negative reactions in Britain as have been seen in Ireland and America. He said that all the dioceses had held training days for clergy.

He said: “There are people who like it and people who don’t and some who aren’t so sure. But I think you’ll find that clergy are a fairly pragmatic group of people in the end and they know it’s coming. It has been observed that clergy who are normally not seen at clergy days have been attending because they know that, whether they like it or not, the new Missal is coming and that it is an important development in the life of the Church.”

Asked what would happen if a priest simply refused to use the new Missal, Mr Foster said that this would be a matter of discipline for the priest’s bishop, but that he thought it would be difficult for a priest to do so without the complicity of the whole parish.

He said: “My hope is that come September the new Missal is not a surprise for parishes, so for a priest to refuse to use it, a parish would have to agree with him. But I hope it doesn’t happen.”

Mr Foster said it would be a big achievement if people in parishes already knew about the new Missal by September when the translation is introduced and the catechesis on both the translation and the Mass itself begins in parishes.

He added: “Although the main catechesis around the new Missal begins in September, we are encouraging parishes to engage with musicians and their parishioners about the new Missal starting after Easter.”

Bishop Seamus Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle said he didn’t foresee any problems and that his diocesan liturgist was doing an “an excellent job – he’s been putting things on in different centres around the diocese and after Easter he’s going out into deaneries and working with lay people”.

Asked what would happen if a parish refused to take up the new translation, Bishop Cunningham said: “We’ll cross that bridge if we have to come to it.”

The bishops in Scotland also issued a statement, saying the introduction of the Missal represented an opportunity for renewed devotion. They said: “We ask Scotland’s Catholics to welcome it as something good, a gift from the Church through which we will continue to worship God and celebrate in English the Holy Mysteries of our faith.”

The bishops of England and Wales already started preparing priests across Britain for the new translation. In the Archdiocese of Westminster priests met at Ealing Abbey last week for an introductory session about introducing the new Missal to parishioners and were given a DVD and booklets outlining an eight-class introductory course to the new Missal. In Salford diocese, priests also met to be introduced to the Missal.

The new translation of the Order of the Mass will be introduced in parishes in Scotland, England and Wales in September accompanied by catechesis. The Proper of the Mass, the sections which change during the year, is expected to be published in England by Advent at the earliest and before Lent 2012 at the latest. In America the new translation will be introduced at the beginning of Advent.

A petition against the introduction of the new Missal called “What if we just said wait?” started last year and has over 21,000 signatures. It includes prominent British Catholics such as Fr Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master of the Dominican order, journalist Mark Dowd, Fr Philip Marsh, the head of the Spiritan congregation in Britain, and Sister Lynda Dearlove, founder of the [email protected] charity. Criticisms of the new translation quoted on the petition website were that it was “clumsy”, “archaic”, “a step backwards”.

In Ireland, an association representing over 400 priests, criticised the new translation last week, describing it as archaic, sexist and exclusivist, while a prominent liturgist in the United States has stepped down from a role promoting the new translation as part of a public protest.