Catholics in the United States will begin using a long-awaited English translation of the Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent next year, a leading American cardinal announced Friday.
Setting the missal's debut for Nov. 27, 2011, gives publishers more than 15 months to prepare texts, and allows American dioceses and parishes to educate members in the meantime, said Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The new text for the missal, which guides Catholics through the prayers of the Mass, was approved by the Vatican in June. In July, additional prayers were approved for certain rites, such as the renewal of baptismal promises on Easter, and celebrations specific to the United States including Thanksgiving, Independence Day and the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Pope John Paul II announced the new missal in 2000 and it was first published in Latin in 2002.
It's the first significant change in the English translation since the Mass was first celebrated in English after Vatican II in the 1960s, said the Rev. Thomas Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
"It will impact every Catholic in every parish because they will have to learn new responses in place of the ones they have been using since Vatican II," Reese said. "I believe that the new translations are a step backwards and confusing to the people in the pews."
Proponents of the new missal's translation into English have said its language is more poetic and true to the spirit of the original Latin. Critics contend the translation is too literal and includes too many theologically complex terms.
Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., who formerly ran the U.S. bishops liturgy committee, criticized the new translation as "slavishly literal" during a lecture last year at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Those who have reviewed the translation say it requires new responses from church members in about a dozen places in the Mass. Generally, those responses are relatively simple, as when members will respond "And with your spirit" after the celebrant says, "The Lord be with you." The current response is, "And also with you."
Currently, priests dismisses the congregation by saying, "The Mass is ended; go in peace." Priests will now have four more specific options, including two suggested by Pope Benedict XVI: "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."
Prayers offered by the priest will include more complex terms such as "consubstantial," "inviolate," "oblation," "ignominy" and "suffused."
Critics like Bishop Trautman argue that Jesus Christ taught in the language of the common man and, further, that Vatican II reforms that first allowed the Mass to be translated from Latin to the vernacular are being unraveled by the more complicated words used in the new translation.
Those who favor the new version say the original translation to English brought about by Vatican II was rushed and that the new version merely restores some of the richness of the terms used in the original Latin.
The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year for Roman Catholic, and is always four Sundays before Christmas.