Roman Missal Crisis: A Timeline

Rita Ferrone


1963: Vatican II allowed the use of “the mother tongue” in the liturgy, entrusting bishops conferences with overseeing translations, which Rome would then approve. Bishops conferences throughout the English-speaking world established the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to undertake the work of translation.

1973: ICEL’s first translation of the Missal was approved by Rome and put into service. The translators were guided by the Vatican document Comme le prévoit (1969). The document’s theory of translation is “dynamic equivalence,” whose goal is to convey the overall sense and meaning of a text in idiomatic English.

1998: After a long process of consultation and retranslation, ICEL completed a new translation of the Missal as part of its regular work. The bishops had asked for a richer translation that would hew more closely to the Latin without sacrificing clarity. The new translation fulfilled those criteria. All English-speaking bishops conferences voted to approve the text. When this translation was sent to Rome, however, it was not approved.


This is an excerpt of an article from Commonweal. Click here to see the entire timeline. The article is © 2011 Commonweal Foundation.