Pope Francis has appeared to wade into one of the most contentious rows over liturgical translations, and agreed with Benedict XVI that Christ shed His blood “for many” rather than “for all”.
During a Mass for cardinals who have died in the past year, the Pope said: “The ‘many’ who will rise for eternal life are to be understood as the ‘many’ for whom the blood of Christ was shed.”
Crux says that the Vatican used the quotation around “many” when distributing the text.
Francis added that “for many” better expresses the idea that people have a choice to make in this life – whether to be for God or against Him.
“Awakening from death isn’t, in itself, a return to life,” Pope Francis added. “Some in fact will awake to eternal life, others for eternal shame.”
Since the Mass was translated into the vernacular, liturgists have debated how best to translate the words “pro multis” in the prayer of Consecration. The words literally translate as “for many”, but many liturgists translated it into their own languages as “for all”.
In 2006, the Holy See gave instruction that all new vernacular editions of the Roman Missal from that point on should translate the words as “for many”, pointing out that it is also the most literal translation of the original Greek “περὶ πολλῶν” in Matthew 26:28.
The change met with opposition from some countries, most notably in Germany, prompting Pope Benedict XVI to write a personal letter in 2012 explaining why the bishops should adopt the new translation.
A new German version of the Mass was published but never officially adopted.
When Pope Francis published Magnum Principium earlier this year, devolving greater powers over translations to local bishops’ conferences, Cardinal Reinhard Marx indicated the German bishops would abandon the newer version.
This may put him at odds with the Pope. In 2007, the Argentinian bishops’ conference approved a new translation while the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was its president. That translation had “for many” rather than “for all”.