This week in Rome there were anniversary celebrations for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the translation agency of the English-speaking church. Here is the English translation of Pope Francis’s remarks to ICEL. (We usually don’t know in such situations who wrote the Holy Father’s words.) And here is the homily given by Archbishop Arthur Roche, now secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and formerly head bishop on ICEL.

In the Letter from Rome in this week’s Tablet (subscription required), Robert Mickens writes on the anniversary celebrations.

Mickens notes that ICEL worked for many, many years on a retranslation of the sacramentary, which was approved by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences by 1998. But the “restorationists in Rome” rejected it. On September 15, 2003, the Congregation for Divine Worship “effectively gutted the original ICEL and re-established it in accordance with its own questionable translation guidelines found in the instruction Liturgiam authenticam.” He wryly notes that the celebration in Rome this week “was really the tenth anniversary of an ICEL that now serves at the whim of the Vatican-controlled Vox Clara Committee.”

Mickens also has choice words about the current executive director of ICEL, Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth: “That an enthusiastic proponent of the Tridentine Mass should one day lead an organization whose sole purpose was to promote the reformed Roman Rite in English would have come as something of a surprise to the 1963 founders.”

Mickens concludes his report on the turbulent history of ICEL: “To quote the late Msgr. Fred McManus, the American peritus at Vatican II who helped the bishops establish ICEL and suffered greatly as he saw it dismantled: ‘They could at least have the decency to change its name’.”


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