Cardinal Arinze tells bishops to change translation of "pro multis"

.- Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, reportedly sent a letter to Church prelates worldwide, instructing them to adjust the translation of a phrase in the middle of the Catholic Mass’s words of consecration.  The translation of the expression “pro multis” is to be changed to read “for many” rather than “for all,” as it currently appears.

In the next few years, the cardinals letter says, the bishops should make adjustments so that when the priest celebrates the Mass in English he will say over the chalice, “…It will be shed for you and for many so that sins may be forgiven…” rather than, “…for you and for all…”

The change of one word may seem inconsequential for many Catholics, but “pro multis” has been the subject of heated debate among linguists and an especially contentious issue for traditionalists since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The gravity of the issue is magnified due to its place in the liturgy.  The proper pronouncement of the words of consecration is believed by Catholics to be paramount to the valid changing (transubstantiation) of bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ.

Many schismatic Catholics have even argued that the Mass promulgated by Vatican II, when celebrated in English or many other translations, is invalid due to its improper translation Christ’s words.

Cardinal Arinze’s letter says that, as supported by previous declarations from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “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.’”

“Indeed,” the cardinal continued, “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).”

Nonetheless, while “for all” is, “an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis,” Arinze said, “’for many’ is a faithful translation of ‘pro multis.’”

The cardinal therefore instructed the Bishops’ Conferences, “of those countries where the formula ‘for all’ or its equivalent is currently in use,” to, “undertake the necessary catechesis of 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.”

Arinze gave as reasons for change the Gospels’ specific reference to “many” rather than “all,” the consistent Latin use of the phrase “pro multis” and never “pro omnibus,” the consistent use of translations equivalent to “pro multis” in the various Oriental Rites, and the document “Liturgiam authenticam’s” insistence that “efforts should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.”

The Vatican’s Sacraments chief also noted that, “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.”

You can find a copy of the cardinal's letter here at Domenico Bettinelli's site.


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