Indigenous Lives Matter

And so do indigenous languages in liturgy.  The Vatican has authorized the indigenous language Nahuatl for liturgical use in Mexico, presumably in preparation for liturgies that will be presided over by Pope Francis in his pastoral visit next month.

And since the Virgin of Guadalupe is said to have spoken in Nahuatl when appearing to the indigenous, Nahuatl-speaking peasant Juan Diego on Mount Tepeyac, it seems only appropriate that the first Latin-American Pope to visit Mexico should be able to use her language in prayer and worship.



  1. Fear of bringing up past English translation controversies aside, what is the procedure for producing liturgical texts in Nahuatl? And which dialect of Nahuatl will be used; there are various mutually unintelligible dialects of Nahuatl.

    Classical Nahuatl is probably closest to what Juan Diego spoke, but I would imagine that a modern text written in 16th century Nahuatl would come across similarly to modern text written in 16th century English.

    1. @Jonathan Ziegler:
      Good questions! I have no idea what the answers might be. Caritas Mexicana had spread the news earlier, they might know more. If not, we will just have to wait until the texts for the Papal liturgies are made public. Not that I would be able to tell one dialect of Nahuatl from another! Unrelated, and with no liturgical significance whatsoever: I think our word Chocolate is originally a Nahuatl word?

  2. FWIW:

    I wonder if English would be used as the intermediary language – that’s supposedly a big reason the Powers That Were wanted the RM3 translation into English to be as Latinate as possible, as it was thought English would be the primary intermediary language for translating the languages of much smaller linguistic groups. I don’t know enough about Nahuatl to suggest what Indo-European language would likely be the best syntatical/idiomatic fit – if any – for such a role. Indigenous American languages are so much more deeply varied than what has survived of European languages to this day.

    1. @Karl Liam Saur:

      I predict it would be via Spanish, if only because I believe that there is more academic literature about Nahuatl in Spanish than in English. And also because I assume that whoever does the translations would more likely be Spanish/Nahuatl bilingual rather than English/Nahuatl.

      1. @Jonathan Ziegler:
        Yes of course, Spanish is the obvious intermediate language, especially for the liturgical realm. I am assuming that any use of Nahuatl will appear in a broader Spanish-language liturgy at which the Pope will preside. For the use of Nahuatl, I have my eyes on the Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on February 13. I so wish I could be there.

  3. This is an unfortunate reminder of the ridiculous arrogance of Liturgiam Authenticam 10-13, and in particular 12:

    Within the liturgical sphere, moreover, a distinction necessarily arises between languages and dialects. In particular, dialects that do not support common academic and cultural formation cannot be taken into full liturgical use, since they lack that stability and breadth that would be required for their being liturgical languages on a broader scale. In any event, the number of individual liturgical languages is not to be increased too greatly. [14] This latter is necessary so that a certain unity of language may be fostered within the boundaries of one and the same nation.

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