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Forget RCIA, meet OCIA: U.S. bishops approve big name change

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has decided to change the name of the process by which individuals enter the Catholic Church./ Shutterstock

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA, as it has been more commonly referred to, will have its name changed to Order of Christian Initiation for Adults, or OCIA, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decided this week.

The name change applies both to the process by which one enters the Church and the book that contains the ritual text and prayers for those steps.

Following the trend of updating all liturgical texts to reflect greater fidelity to the original Latin, the U.S. bishops, meeting in Baltimore for their annual fall assembly, approved on Nov. 17 a revised English edition of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults. The English version passed 215-0 with two abstentions. 

The action still needs the approval of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments before it takes effect.

On May 7, 2001, Pope John Paul II published Liturgiam authenticam, a document on the use of vernacular languages in the publication of the books of the Roman Liturgy. This document set in motion a translation effort aimed at preserving the closest wording of the Latin liturgy. People in the pews may be most familiar with the way this effort affected the translation of the Mass. 

Book by book, the bishops conferences of each language have translated updated versions of the various rites in the Church, renaming the Rite of Penance to the Order of Penance, for instance, after the Latin “Ordo paenitentiae.” 

This is the latest book to undergo the translation effort. Because RCIA was also the name popularly associated with the process of going through the restored catechumenate, the process also has been renamed, a potentially confusing switch that may leave people wondering if anything else changed within the process.  

In a slight revision, the traditional categorization of those petitioning for full acceptance into the Church has been changed. The new revision includes four groups: catechumens (who are unbaptized adults); unbaptized infants; baptized non-Catholic Christians, and baptized Catholics in need of confirmation.

Additionally, individuals in RCIA were usually referred to as a “candidate.” OCIA will be split depending on where the candidate is in the initiation process. Terms used will be “inquirer,” “catechumen” and “elect.” 

In order to become a Catholic, individuals go through several rites with the final being at the Easter Vigil when they are welcomed into the Catholic Church. The Easter Vigil rites have also been adjusted. They will now focus more on the validity of baptisms received in other Christian denominations. 

The new edition will also include texts for infant baptisms at the Easter Vigil, a feature not widely practiced before this change. 

A Spanish version was also voted on and passed 218-3 with one abstention. It will keep the acronym of RICA, which in Spanish translates as “Ritual de Iniciación Cristiana de Adultos.” 

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