Revised lectionary planned for Aotearoa New Zealand

Deacon Gregory Fabian carries the lectionary during a Mass of ordination for new deacons at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Ind., in early June. (CNS photo by Karen Callaway, Northwest Indiana Catholic) (Aug. 5, 2003) See DEACONS Aug. 5, 2003.

A revised lectionary for the Mass is being planned for Aotearoa New Zealand, and a better translation of the opening and post-Communion prayers of the Mass may also be a possibility.

New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference president Bishop Stephen Lowe, who is the New Zealand bishops’ representative on the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), said that a revision of the lectionary is a joint project by the Australian and the New Zealand and Irish bishops’ conferences.

This revision makes use of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible.

Bishop Lowe told NZ Catholic in 2021 that the RNJB is preferred because it is based on the familiar Jerusalem Bible translation, that is the current approved lectionary for New Zealand, and the RNJB also “uses inclusive language”.

“Its language is familiar and more poetic,” he said.

In 2021, the Irish bishops made clear their preference for a revised lectionary based on the RNJB, and arranged a consultation, reported the UK Catholic weekly The Tablet.

This was a different approach from that taken by the bishops in England, Wales and Scotland, The Tablet noted. These bishops’ conferences opted to use the English Standard Version – Catholic Edition (ESV-CE), which was developed by the Indian bishops’ conference.

The bishops’ conferences in Britain have been criticised for choosing the ESV, which uses gender-exclusive translations instead of inclusive phrases such as “brothers and sisters”, The Tablet noted.

The New Zealand bishops’ conference have given their endorsement for the project, and “we are waiting for this from the Australian and Irish Conferences”, Bishop Lowe said.

The work of developing the new lectionary will take about three years, during which time the various conferences will work on a programme of introducing the new version to parishes and schools.

For some years, New Zealand Catholics have been critical of the English wording of the Collect (or opening prayer of the Mass) in particular, and some of the other prayers of the Mass. This was reflected in the New Zealand synodal responses as well as the Australian Plenary Council.

The direct translation from the Latin, retaining the Latin syntax, has made the meaning unclear in English in some instances.

Last year, ICEL wrote to the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, expressing its desire to revisit the opening and post-Communion prayers of the Mass, NZ Catholic understands.

In 2017, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio (Magnum Principium), which put control of the liturgy back in the hands of bishops’ conferences, as envisaged by Vatican II.

Later that year, Pope Francis clarified that, in the past, “the judgement regarding the fidelity to the Latin and the eventual corrections necessary was the task of the Congregation [for Divine Worship], now the norm concedes to the episcopal conferences the faculty of judging the worth and coherence of one or another term in translations from the original, even in dialogue with the Holy See”.

The texts for Masses and other liturgies must receive a confirmation from the CDW, Pope Francis said, but this “no longer supposes a detailed, word-by-word examination, except in obvious cases that can be presented to the bishops for further reflection”.

In translations, the Pope called for fidelity, “first to the original text; to the particular language into which it is being translated; and finally to the intelligibility of the text”, by the people.

At the July meeting of ICEL in Washington, DC, collects in the Roman martyrology were retranslated into accordance with Magnum Principium. The bishops present from the various English-speaking parts of the world were delighted with the beauty of the revised prayers, Bishop Lowe told NZ Catholic.

A new translation of the opening and post-Communion prayers of the Mass is a real possibility, Bishop Lowe said, with a revised Book of the Chair being a simple solution to resolving many of the major criticisms of the current translation. There was a real unanimous enthusiasm for relooking at the opening and post-Communion prayers that wasn’t there before, he added.

Feedback from the July ICEL meeting will be given by the delegates to their own bishops’ conferences in the coming months.

Photo: CNS photo by Karen Callaway, Northwest Indiana Catholic

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Michael Otto

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