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Cardinal Müller: bishops’ conferences cannot have the final word on translations

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller attends the Epiphany Mass at St Peter's in 2015 (Getty)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said the Vatican must have the ultimate authority over translations of liturgical texts, or else the unity of the Church could be “destroyed”.

In an interview with Passauer Neue Presse, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed reservations about Pope Francis’s motu proprio Magnum Principium, which gives greater powers to bishops’ conferences over translations.

“The ultimate authority in the case of doubt cannot lie with the Episcopal Conferences, which would destroy the unity of the Catholic Church in faith, confession and prayer,” the cardinal said.

He explained that he has “often experienced that the translators used by the bishops have watered down the biblical and liturgical texts on the pretext of better comprehension”.

Since the introduction of Mass in the vernacular after the Second Vatican Council, bishops and theologians have argued over how faithful to the original Latin the new translations should be.

One ongoing controversy is over how to translate “pro multis” in the words of Consecration. The phrase literally translates as “for many” but some translators reinterpreted the words as “for all”.

Last week, however, Pope Francis appeared to come down on the side of the more traditional translation, saying: “The ‘many’ who will rise for eternal life are to be understood as the ‘many’ for whom the blood of Christ was shed.”

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.

Cardinal Müller’s words come just days after he weighed into the row on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, clarifying comments he made in a foreword to a book on the subject.

“The purpose of my intervention was only to state that the one way to interpret Amoris Laetitia is in continuity with the Word of God in the Bible, the previous Magisterium, and with the Tradition of the great Councils of Florence, Trent and Vatican II,” he said.