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A Richer Liturgical Translation: Interview With Bishop Roche

11/14/2007 - 23:18 PST

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LEEDS, England, NOV. 14, 2007 (Zenit) - The English translation of the 2002 Roman Missal in Latin will be an opportunity for the faithful to discover the great theological richness of the text, according to the bishop in charge of the translation process.

Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), announced Nov. 1 that the draft phase of the process to translate the 2002 Roman Missal from Latin to English has been completed.

He reported that the last installment -- the appendices -- of the draft version of the English translation was sent to the bishops of the commission's 11 member conferences.

In this interview with us, the bishop comments on the five-year process of translating the sacred liturgy, and how he thinks this translation will serve as an opportunity for catechesis.

Q: Can you describe the process of translation from the original text in Latin? How many editors and translators have worked on the text sent out now to the bishops?

Bishop Roche: It is quite a long process and very thorough as it involves a wide number of people. For example, each text is translated initially by a base translator, who has the "nihil obstat" of the Holy See. This version is seen by three or four revisors, who send their comments to the secretariat of ICEL, where a revised version is prepared that takes these comments into account.

This revised version then goes before an editorial committee composed of six people, the majority of whom are bishops. They further revise the text and propose a version for submission to the 11 bishops of the commission. When the commission meets it discusses the text, amends it if necessary, and then sends it out as a draft version in a Green Book to all the bishops of ICEL's member conferences.

These bishops consult whom they wish, and send their comments to the secretariat; local liturgical commissions often assist in this process by making a provisional collation of the comments.

By this time the text has been seen by a great number of people. The commission then reviews the text once again in the light of comments received, and either sends out another Green Book for further consultation, or issues a Gray Book, which contains its final version.

It is at this point that the bishops take a canonical vote on the text and forward it to Rome for the "recognitio" by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

Q: In translations, a decision often has to be made between translating exact words and translating concepts (formal equivalence versus dynamic equivalence). In translating the liturgy, how is that decision made, and what are the implications for bad liturgical translations?

Bishop Roche: The terms "formal equivalence" and "dynamic equivalence" are outmoded these days. They have been abandoned by their originator, Eugene Nida, who considered that his theories had been misunderstood and abused. Translation theory has moved on since the 1960s.

Language conveys not only facts and concepts but also images and feelings. We use words not only to say things but also to do things. These considerations are clearly important for the translation of the liturgy.

Just a quick example. There are various ways in which one can ask a person to close a door: "Shut the door"; "Shut the door, please"; "Would you mind closing the door, please?" Which, if any, of the courteous forms is appropriate for the liturgy?

The prayers of the Roman rite do not order God around, they respectfully request and plead. Nor do they tell God who he is, they acknowledge his greatness and his power, his love and his compassion and generosity.

Q: Other than the problem of literal-versus-conceptual translation, what is the main difficulty in translating Latin texts into the vernacular?

Bishop Roche: Latin shows the function of a word by means of its ending, English by its place in the sentence. In Latin, word order often expresses emphasis. English has to try to convey this, but has fewer means for doing so.

In some cases, Latin has many words for a concept for which English has few -- for example, "love." Sometimes, the reverse is true.

Q: Can you comment on some of the principal differences between the translation of the 2002 Roman Missal, and that of the one translated more than 30 years ago?

Bishop Roche: When the present English missal was published back in the 1970s, it was readily accepted by the bishops of the day that the translation would need to be revisited, because the translation had been done speedily in order to supply an English text, as quickly as possible, for the revised liturgy.

The new English translation of the now third edition of the Latin "Missale Romanum" will be a fuller and therefore a more faithful ...

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