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Liturgical translations back in the spotlight

ROME (SE): Liturgical translations have long been a matter of much discussion, disappointment and straight out disagreement, but this time it is Pope Francis drawing attention to the resonant petition prayer of the whole of the Christian world, the Our Father or The Lord’s Prayer.
In an interview aired by TV2000 in Rome, Pope Francis has questioned the age old translation of “lead us not into temptation.”
He suggests this is not a good translation as it implies that it is God who leads us into temptation, whereas the reality is that it is not God, but the shadow god of Satan that tempts.
The pope is suggesting that “do not let us fall to temptation” may be a more accurate rendering of the sentiment of the great petition prayer, as a loving father does not deliberately place temptation in front of his children.
“He helps you to get up right away. What induces temptation is Satan,” Pope Francis said in the interview.
Instead, he suggests that the prayer that appears in the Gospel of St. Matthew is asking God for help and strength to resist when temptation comes along.
Pope Francis was speaking in the context of a change to that effect that was made to the French translation in early December and is strongly suggesting that Italy do the same.
While this does not amount to a decree, as that involves a more systemised process than a television interview, it has sparked a debate over whether a pope should be challenging such a long-standing tradition or not.
The editor of the leave-things-like-they-are Catholic news website, CWN, Phil Lawler, says that while he thinks the pope has a good point, any change in the wording of the august prayer would certainly upset a lot of people.
“Pope Francis has made a habit of saying things that throw people into confusion and this is one of them,” Lawler said. “It just makes you wonder, where does it stop, what’s up for grabs? It is cumulative unease.”
While Lawler may well be reading Pope Francis accurately, his comment probably tells us more about himself then about the pope. But some critics were more forthright in their responses.
“I was shocked and appalled,” Reverend Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.
“This is the Lord’s Prayer. It is not, and has never been, the pope’s prayer and we have the very words of Jesus in the New Testament. It is those very words that the pope proposes to change. It is not only deeply problematic, it is almost breathtaking,” the Baptist university head said said.
A spokesperson for TV2000 admitted that the pope had stirred up a few people, but pointed out that his question is not a new one. “This is not a mere whim for Pope Francis,” he said.
France began using the new translation on December 3, substituting the former words with “Ne nous soumets pas à la tentation” (which roughly translates as “do not let us give in to temptation”).
However, it is not the Catholic Church leading the pack in France, but rather it is following other French-speaking Churches, many of which made the change some time ago.
However, Pope Francis maintains, “Evil is not something impalpable that spreads like the fog in Milan. It is a person—Satan.”
The pontiff added that we have to be sharp in dealing with the temptations of Satan. “We have to be crafty in the good sense of the word. We must be sharp, have the ability to discern the lies of Satan with whom, I am convinced, it is not possible to conduct a dialogue,” Pope Francis said.
But the pope is not the only one dissatisfied with translations.
The president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Patrick Dunne, wants the International Commission on English in the Liturgy to revisit the 1998 draft of thde Roman Missal translation which, while praised by many for its elegance, was discarded in favour of the much criticised literal translation that is in use today.
Archbishop Dunn was quoted by Auckland’s NZ Catholic as saying the conference is asking that it be revisited, although it wants to keep a balance in its demand for the use of the missal to ensure unity is preserved with the Roman rite.
Archbishop Dunn said that priests in New Zealand have been urging the bishops to use the 1998 missal.
But, he stressed that the New Zealand conference would collaborate with English-speaking bishops’ conferences around the world, “to explore prudently and patiently the possibility of an alternative translation of the Roman Missal and the review of other liturgical texts.”

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