New Motu Proprio, Magnum Principium – The Great Principle

New Motu Proprio, Magnum Principium – The Great Principle

Pope Francis has today released a Motu Proprio, on his own authority, entitled Magnum Principium or The Great Principle.

In it he decrees that the local Episcopal Conference (in our case, the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference) now has the authority to approve adaptations to the translation of the Liturgy and that the Roman Curia henceforth will only recognise the Episcopal Conference’s approval. To accomplish this, Pope Francis modifies canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law, effective 1 October 2017, so that it now reads:

Can. 838

§1. The ordering and guidance of the sacred liturgy depends solely upon the authority of the Church, namely, that of the Apostolic See and, as provided by law, that of the diocesan Bishop.

§ 2.  It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, publish liturgical books, recognise adaptations approved by the Episcopal Conference according to the norm of law, and exercise vigilance that liturgical regulations are observed faithfully everywhere.

§ 3.  It pertains to the Episcopal Conferences to faithfully prepare versions of the liturgical books in vernacular languages, suitably accommodated within defined limits, and to approve and publish the liturgical books for the regions for which they are responsible after the confirmation of the Apostolic See.

§ 4.  Within the limits of his competence, it belongs to the diocesan Bishop to lay down in the Church entrusted to his care, liturgical regulations which are binding on all.


Here are Fr Graham’s comments in his forthcoming Pastor’s Corner:

Several people have asked me about Pope Francis’ statement about the translation of the Mass.  He has said that decisions about translation should be taken by local Bishops and not dictated by Rome, which is what was said at Vatican II.  (“Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent, territorial ecclesiastical authority already mentioned.” Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 §4) For us that means that the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference will decide whether we should stay with the recent translation or perhaps change.  Vatican II also said that “the rites should be marked by a noble simplicity: they should be short, clear and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension and as a rule not require much explanation” (SC 34)

Many whose mother tongue is English have objected consistently to the quality of the recent translation as being comprehensible only to those whose Latin was good enough not to need any translation at all.  Words like ‘conciliation’, ‘oblation’ and ‘consubstantial’ probably have no place at all in English liturgy; there are many other more complex arguments that cannot be entered here, but if you dislike the current translation I would encourage you to write to the Southern Cross and take to the social media to appeal to our Bishops to heed the Pope and the Council and once more give us the Mass in English.

There is no need for a new translation to be made.  If we do not return to the previous translation, there is an even better one which was ready for publication in 1998, which would be a fitting memorial to Archbishop Denis Hurley who worked hard preparing it.

Graham Pugin SJ

PS: Can we please have an English translation of the Mass?

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