The Letter: good news pro multis

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 18, 2006

[To their Eminences / Excellencies, Presidents of the National Episcopal Conferences]

Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum

Prot. N. 467/05/L

Rome, 17 October 2006

Your Eminence / Your Excellency,

In July 2005 this Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to all Presidents of Conferences of Bishops to ask their considered opinion regarding the translation into the various vernaculars of the expression pro multis in the formula for the consecration of the Precious Blood during the celebration of Holy Mass (ref. Prot. N. 467/05/L of 9 July 2005).

The replies received from the Bishops' Conferences were studied by the two Congregations and a report was made to the Holy Father. At his direction, this Congregation now writes to Your Eminence / Your Excellency in the following terms:

1. A text corresponding to the words pro multis, handed down by the Church, constitutes the formula that has been in use in the Roman Rite in Latin from the earliest centuries. In the past 30 years or so, some approved vernacular texts have carried the interpretive translation "for all", "per tutti", or equivalents.

2. There is no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of Masses celebrated with the use of a duly approved formula containing a formula equivalent to "for all", as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has already declared (cf. Sacra Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Declaratio de sensu tribuendo adprobationi versionum formularum sacramentalium, 25 Ianuarii 1974, AAS 66 [1974], 661). Indeed, the formula "for all" would undoubtedly correspond to a correct interpretation of the Lord's intention expressed in the text. It is a dogma of faith that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women (cf. John 11:52; 2 Corinthians 5,14-15; Titus 2,11; 1 John 2,2).

3. There are, however, many arguments in favour of a more precise rendering of the traditional formula pro multis:
a. The Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26,28; Mk 14,24) make specific reference to "many" (πολλων = pollôn) for whom the Lord is offering the Sacrifice, and this wording has been emphasized by some biblical scholars in connection with the words of the prophet Isaiah (53, 11-12). It would have been entirely possible in the Gospel texts to have said "for all" (for example, cf. Luke 12,41); instead, the formula given in the institution narrative is "for many", and the words have been faithfully translated thus in most modern biblical versions.

b. The Roman Rite in Latin has always said pro multis and never pro omnibus in the consecration of the chalice.

c. The anaphoras of the various Oriental Rites, whether in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, the Slavic languages, etc., contain the verbal equivalent of the Latin pro multis in their respective languages.

d. "For many" is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas "for all" is rather an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.

e. The expression "for many", while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one's willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the "many" to whom the text refers.

f. In line with the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, effort should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.
The Bishops' Conferences of those countries where the formula "for all" or its equivalent is currently in use are therefore requested to undertake the necessary catechesis for the faithful on this matter in the next one or two years to prepare them for the introduction of a precise vernacular translation of the formula pro multis (e.g, "for many", "per molti", etc.) in the next translation of the Roman Missal that the Bishops and the Holy See will approve for use in their country.

With the expression of my high esteem and respect, I remain, Your Eminence/Your Excellency,

Devotedly Yours in Christ,

Francis Card. Arinze, Prefect

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  • Posted by: Deacon Bart - Nov. 21, 2006 11:42 AM ET USA

    ladybird-he should wait for the approved change-the Mass belongs to the Church, not the priest or even the bishop.That some have gone their own way is a scandal but another's false steps does not give us leave to follow the same path, even with the best of intentions. As frustrating as it can be, we must adhere to the approved translation (bad as it is) lest we become as confused and lost as they. I don't always like the slow pace but I will follow Holy Mother Church as she corrects this.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Nov. 20, 2006 11:32 AM ET USA

    You guys know more about this than I. Hypothetical Q: Could our pastor, upon information and belief, take it on himself to go ahead and make the change, or would he be obligated to wait for his bishop's instruction?

  • Posted by: zonner - Nov. 19, 2006 10:04 PM ET USA

    Mistakes made in the last 40 years? Remember Pope JPII? Dominicae Cenae? At the end he apologized for how the liturgical reforms were implemented.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2006 8:57 PM ET USA

    Note well that the letter as a whole makes it clear that the Holy Father sees this historic decision as one he was free to make but not bound to make. Note equally well that the letter does not refer to "the Roman Rite in Latin" as "the traditional Mass" or "the traditional Latin Mass." "The tradition" of the Catholic Church embraces the Oriental Rites and others every bit as much as it does the Roman Rite.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2006 5:41 PM ET USA

    I'm a convert, and my memory might be faulty -- but didn't the ICEL text used to say "for you and for all men," and then a stink was raised, so the word "men" was removed? Did it take two years of preparation and catechesis to do that?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2006 3:33 PM ET USA

    This is a most welcome change that should be made immediately rather than having to wait two or three years until a new vernacular translation is ready. The instruction could be sent to accomodate the various languages. It could easily be done in English.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2006 1:18 PM ET USA

    This is great news. Now we could use a good scholarly demolition of the theory behind the "for all" translation, beginning with Joachim Jeremias's article in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1968) (v.6, pp.536-45).

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2006 11:25 AM ET USA

    I feel your pain, peco. And I'm wishin' right along with ben-ob. Allow me to offer an encouraging thought. Card. Arinze knew that this letter would become public whether he intended it to or not. He & BXVII remember well how faithfully McCarrick honored the collegial bonds of the episcopacy & its privacy back in '04 in safeguarding then Card. Ratzinger's letter. By allowing our bishops up to 2 yrs in public, he avoids a public 'line in the sand' confrontation. But in private? Who knows?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2006 8:48 AM ET USA

    Human pride so infects the Vatican that the last thing we can expect is an expression of regret ("apology") for mistakes made in the past 40 years. I am thankful that a new wind seems to be blowing ... but I wish it would blow a little harder a little quicker.

  • Posted by: peco - Nov. 19, 2006 8:31 AM ET USA

    Now watch how the "next one or two years to prepare ..." automatically becomes at least two years. After all, the bishops are so concerned about "necessary catechesis", as evidenced by the high quality of catechesis in this country. Sorry if this sounds cynical but in my diocese a two year period of implementation is optimistic!