POPE’S STATEMENT ON LITURGY
OFFERS A CHANCE FOR BALANCE
Pope Francis seems to have one ongoing mission: to stir the pot, both politically and ecclesiastically. But amid all the change and controversy, his latest pronouncement on liturgical language presents the Church with an opportunity to pursue reasonableness and balance.
The September 3 apostolic letter titled Magnum Principium (“The Great Principle”), charges the world’s bishops with greater responsibility for vernacular translations of the words we use at Mass. This move revives a controversy over worship language that has gone on with greater or lesser intensity since the Second Vatican Council. And it’s another step in the decentralizing of authority which appears to be high on the agenda of this pontificate.
According to Magnum Principium, the Holy See still retains the power of final text approval, thus ensuring fidelity to meanings embodied in the universal Latin standard. But national episcopal conferences now have greater authority to make prayers and responses better fit the linguistic structures and usages of the world’s many tongues.
To those outside the Church, all this might sound like a So-what? proposition, a procedural adjustment at most. But those who understand Catholicism and its internal stresses recognize that what Francis has done — as with his much-debated words about receiving Holy Communion in Amoris Laetitia — stokes anxiety in some quarters about the future shape of our Church and power relationships within it.