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Pontiff tells German bishops that pro multis must be translated literally

April 30, 2012

The new translation of the Roman Missal into German will include a literal translation of the words pro multis during the consecration of the Precious Blood, Pope Benedict said in a letter to the bishops of Germany.

In opting for a literal translation (“for many”), the Church shows “respect for the word of Jesus” (Mk. 14:14; cf. Mt. 26:28), the Pontiff said in his letter, dated April 14 and released by the the German Episcopal Conference on April 24. On the other hand, rendering pro multis as “for all” is “not a pure translation, but an interpretation, which was and remains very reasonable.”

In 2006, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments announced Pope Benedict had decided that the phrase pro multis would henceforth be rendered literally in new translations of the Roman Missal. Pope Benedict explained to the president of the German bishops’ conference that some bishops in the German-speaking world objected to his decision, leading to the possibility of a divisive difference in translation:

During your visit of 15 March 2012 you let me know that, regarding the translation of the words “pro multis” in the canon of the Mass, there is still no consensus among the bishops of the German language area. There now seems to be the danger that, with the soon to be expected publication of the new release of Gotteslob, some parts of the German language area will keep the translation “for all,” even though the German Bishops’ Conference had agreed to use “for many,” as was desired by the Holy See. I promised you I would express myself in writing about this serious issue to prevent a split in our most inner prayer room.

The Pope asked the bishops to catechize the faithful about the reasons for the more accurate translation and offered an outline of this catechesis.

Noting the papal letter’s “argumentative care,” Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, said that the letter “provides clarification and is the conclusion of a discussion.”

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, president of the Austrian bishops’ conference, welcomed the letter. Stating that he was “very impressed” by its “argumentative clarity and depth,” the prelate said that the new translation of the Roman Missal marks a return to a “greater proximity to the traditional words of Jesus Christ in the Bible.”


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  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 01, 2012 10:08 AM ET USA

    This is outrageous. The Holy Father should not have to "walk on eggs" to perserve the unity of the Church. He is, after all, the Holy Father? Beyond a certain point, "democracy" and "dialogue" does not "work" in the Church. Where is the respect here? But I am sure with the support of his (the Holy Father's) Cardinals things will stabalize nicely.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Apr. 30, 2012 3:15 PM ET USA

    Do you suppose I could get His Holiness to write a letter to Fr. Paddy telling him to say, for many? I'll send him a copy of the one to the German bishops, but I doubt it will do any good, since he makes so many other changes, too.