- Jan 18, 2020
A former executive director of the U.S. bishops’ department on liturgy said Monday that by taking primary control over the translation of liturgical texts away from the Vatican and restoring it to local bishops’ conferences, Pope Francis is doing more than settling historical scores from two decades ago. He is trying to “integrate” the Church’s experience since Vatican II “and really balance everything.”
Given Pope Francis’s usual disinclination to answer his critics, it may seem a little puzzling as to why he quickly and publicly responded to Cardinal Robert Sarah about the implications of the pontiff’s recent decisions on liturgical translation. The nature of Sarah’s position, the pope’s readiness to be precise, and his personal investment in the issue may all help explain why Francis appears so ready to reply this time.
In a rare move, Pope Francis has issued a public letter to one of his own cardinals correcting his interpretation of one of the pontiff’s decisions. In a missive dated Oct. 15, Francis tells Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, head of the Vatican’s liturgical department, that the pope’s recent document ‘Magnum Principium’ does indeed mean a power shift away from Rome and toward local bishops’ conferences.
Although a new document issued by Pope Francis says bishops’ conferences now have control over the process of translating the liturgy, Cardinal Robert Sarah says that Vatican approval “is by no means a formality.” The head of the Congregation for Worship added translations of certain words and phrases may still be “imposed” to ensure conformity with the Latin original before a liturgical translation can be used.