FAQs About the Translation

What is this new translation?
A new translation of the Mass has been prepared for the English-speaking world. The current translation used in parishes in Malaysia was prepared in the late 1960s following the renewal of the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council.

We use a translation of the Latin Missal. The Latin Missal or Missale Romanum is the foundation document for translations into other languages. It means that across the world though the language and local customs may be different the form of the Mass and the content of the prayers is the same. The Missal is therefore a sign of the unity of the Church.

CopeWhy do we need a new translation?
There was a great desire following the Second Vatican Council to celebrate the renewed liturgy in the vernacular, for people to pray the Mass in their own language. The initial translation, which we now have been using for about 40 years, was produced quickly in response to this demand. From the beginning it was recognised that the translation would need to redone.

It is widely recognised that though our current has served the Church’s prayer for the last 40 years it could be improved. The original translators following the Church’s guidelines on translation chose a direct, plain style. This was achieved by often simplifying the texts of the prayers. One thing that people will notice with the new translation is that it is richer in style, in content and in such things as scriptural allusions.

There have two further important developments that highlighted the need for a new translation. The Holy See published a new, third edition of the Latin Missal (see more details below) and it also produced new guidelines of translating liturgical texts – Liturgiam Authenticam. The guidelines stressed the need for translations which are faithful and accurate, which respect the structure and the content of the Latin text and find ways of doing this in the vernacular which can ‘pray well’ in the liturgy.

How has it been translated?
The translation has been prepared by ICEL. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was founded in 1964 by a group of English-speaking bishops at the Second Vatican Council. They recognised that the need for an English translation was one that should be shared across the countries.

ICEL is a mixed commission of 11 English-speaking Bishops’ Conferences which is responsible for translating into English liturgical texts issued by the Holy See.

The 3rd edition of the Latin Missale Romanum was issued in 2002 and since then ICEL has be working on the English translation following the guidelines of Liturgiam Authenticam. The translation goes through a number of stages which are produced by ICEL and reviewed and commented by members of the Bishops’ Conferences and their advisors. The first text was issued to bishops in February 2004 and the last text was voted upon in November 2009.

What is different about this translation?
The starting point of this translation is the Latin edition of the Roman Missal. Every text has been newly translated following the guidelines of Liturgiam Authenticam. This means that many of the texts said by the people at every Mass will be different. One example would be the Gloria which by following the Latin text more closely is more expanded. The texts of the priest, such as the Collects and the Eucharistic Prayers, have also been re-translated.

What about other countries?
The Holy See’s document on translation, Liturgiam Authenticam, asks Bishops’ Conferences to retranslate all liturgical texts. So, other language groups are also reviewing and retranslating their liturgical books. However, it is fair to suggest that for many Asian languages, at least, which have either had a translation of the 2nd edition and/or one which closer to the fullness of the Latin text from the beginning the changes may not be as significant.