The English GIRM 2002 and 2011 Side-by-side

At the beginning of August I said I would make available my side-by-side comparison of the provisional (2002) English translation and the final (2011) translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. I explain the markings in the 2002 edition at the bottom of page two; I highlight the changes between the 2002 edition and the 2011 edition by double-underlining.

Here are the first ninety articles. I plan to have the whole document available for your reading; but I have been slowed down by semester start-up responsibilities.

The proliferation of capitalizations and the use of passive constructions do not accord with the standards of the Chicago Manual of Style and of the Catholic News Service‘s Stylebook on Religion, 3rd Edition.

One improvement is the change of the incorrect nomenclature, “Prayer of the Faithful” or “General Intercessions,” to the “Universal Prayer.”

Because these are copyrighted texts and my own work on them is copyrighted as well, I blocked downloading and printing.


    1. You’re welcome, but there isn’t much analysis yet. I hope to get back to it soon. I’m music director at the seminary as well as a teacher, leaving little time for anything else.

  1. Many thanks, Paul.

    My initial observation accords with your comments above:

    The 2011 instruction is a perfect example of the present tendency of “creeping pretentiousness” in the Church.

    1. The 2011 appears to be tinkering for tinkering’s sake. But the English syntax is peculiar in places and is a regression on the 2002.

    2. What’s all this capitalisation about: ‘H’omily, ‘O’fferings, ‘P’rayer, ‘P’riest, ministerial ‘P’riesthood, ‘D’eacon, ‘C’elebrant, ‘C’elebration, ‘D’eath, ‘S’olemnity, ‘S’acrifice, ‘C’ollect, …, but not ‘p’aschal ‘s’upper? Very off-putting and pretentious.

    And especially, with all these capital letters flying around, why aren’t “the faithful” and “everyone” capitalised? Are The Faithful and Everyone not important enough?

  2. This is interesting and important. However, I do need some assistance — how can I get ‘scribed format’ saved on my computer? I save a number of similar documents on the hard disk — but I can not figure out how to do that in this format. Excuse my ignorance.

    1. Philip, I blocked downloading and printing, because these are copyrighted texts and my own work on them is copyrighted as well. I am hoping to publish a bilingual edition (English/Spanish) when I can get my hands on the definitive Spanish edition.

      1. Thanks for your response. Somehow it makes me feel
        better to know that it is not my ignorance that is causing the efect.

    1. I tried for a frustratingly long time to read it on my iPad yesterday. There will be an app for it (FLOAT for iPad) but that does not exist yet and I could not get the version for iPhone to work.

  3. What is a “Universal Prayer” and why are we having such a devil of a time deciding what to call the litany of intercession? I mean this as a genuine question. I continue to be puzzled by all the name changes. Someone must be nervous about this prayer.

    And in the end, I really have no idea what this “Universal” name intends to suggest. We went through the problem of the Universal Catechism and it was changed to Catechism of the Catholic Church. Are we saying this prayer is or could be prayed by every human being? This seems a bit presumptuous. That it is for every human being? Seems quite inaccurate, if the actual examples are any indication.

    Finally, today “universe” suggests planets and galaxies. Are we including prayers for extra-terrestrials? (OK, now I’m joking, but just a little bit. There actually are people who will take the word “universal” and run with it in the direction of outer space.)

    Paul, why do you applaud “universal prayer”?

    1. Where did the name “oratio universalis” originate? SC 53 calls it either the “oratio communis” or the “oratio fidelium”, whereas the 2002 GIRM uses the names “oratio universalis” and “oratio fidelium”. Does anyone have access to the Latin text of the 1969 GIRM? Paul VI used “oratio communis” and “oratio fidelium” in his 1969 Apostolic Constitution on the new Missal.

      The most readily available English translations of 1964’s Inter Oecumenici translate the Latin “oratio communis” as “universal prayer”. Is this a case of the most recent Latin text of the GIRM being “updated” to match an English translation of a Latin text? Blegh!

    2. At the beginning of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom there is a Litany for “the whole world” which is sometimes called in translations the Great Litany and sometimes the Litany of Peace. If I recall correctly at some point there was a similar Litany in the Roman Rite of which our Kyrie is a remnant

      Before the Great Entrance (offertory procession) of the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom there is a Litany, mainly for the church throughout the whole world which is sometimes called the Litany of Fervent Supplication or the Ecumenic Litany; it is followed by Prayers (another Litany) for Catechumens and a Prayer (said by the Priest not the Deacon) for the Faithful.

      After the Great Entrance is another litany which is sometimes called the Offertory Litany, sometimes just the Petitions; it is mainly a litany for the sanctification of life.

      A possible explanation is that universalis is mean to stand for prayer for the whole world and the whole Church, i.e. ecumenical in the earlier sense of that word? Perhaps by analogy with the similar uses above in the Byzantine Rite?

      Since the Deacon is supposed to lead these (and many other) litanies they really get a prominent role and workout in the Byzantine Tradition.

    3. Rita, some liturgists have never read DOL 239 [Documents on the Liturgy 1963–1975: Conciliar, Papal, and Curial Texts (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1982), edited and translated by Thomas C. O’Brien]. So the restoration of the correct title, “Universal Prayer,” does not signify the contrast between “special intentions” and “universal intentions.”

      I have a bilingual edition of this document which I will post on my website.

      1. Paul, I note this paragraph:

        “The term oratio communis or oratio fidelium itself can be quite readily expressed by synonyms, for example, prex or deprecatio universalis. The expressions oratio communis or oratio fidelium are retained in documents because they are the accepted terms in antiquity and because of their technical meaning. Even so, a literal translation of them does not seem to be the best translation: the whole Mass is a universal prayer of participation and the Lord’s Prayer is distinctively the prayer of the faithful.”

        Where is the word “universal” in “universal prayer” originating? Is it translating a Latin word, and if so, which one?

      2. Paul, I’m not finding the distinction between “correct” and “incorrect” terribly illuminating here, and perhaps some other readers would also appreciate more clarity.

        I remember it being titled “Prayer of the Faithful.” Then it was, no, no, it’s “General Intercessions.” Then it was, no, no, it’s “Prayer of the Faithful” again. And now, suddenly, the “correct” version emerges (?) and it is… Universal Prayer, which is, sorry, completely opaque in English.

        Jeffrey is right. There have been several different references to this prayer in Latin. There is not only one way to translate it. The English title has been changed a number of times. If the answer to my question lies in the document you’ve cited, why don’t you just quote it and clarify the matter, or sum it up in your own words? I don’t doubt you have a reason for so firmly insisting that we’ve all been wrong for 45 years; I’d just like to know what it is. 🙂 Thank you.

    4. The prayer of the faithful is called “priere universelle” in French, and in fact I used a literal translation from the French and called it “universal prayer” in American when I first moved here (until my accent got better and my Gallicisms disappeared as my English improved).

      In France it is a time when we pray, not just for ourselves, not even just for our faith community, but broaden our prayers to include everyone. That is why it is not good to exclusively have individual intentions for specific sick relatives, and better to immediately broaden it to the world: not “pray for x’s mother, who has lung cancer”, but “pray for x’s mother, who has lung cancer, and for all the people who are currently undergoing cancer treatment”. That was my understanding of “universal”: pray for the subjects of our concern, but broaden the context of our prayer to the whole world.

  4. Paul – serious question…..realize you have made no analysis here but why and who made these changes? Close reading reminds me of “turning a page back” – it is as if this new GIRM could be given to an editor to clean up and the “old” GIRM would result. Is this an overall attempt to more closely translate the “original latin”……not sure that this was ever in “original latin” so we take a composition from the 1960’s in english; translate into latin; and then back to english.

    Help me understand the history here of the GIRM – been too many years and have lost the thread of this GIRM development?

    1. My reading of the new translation suggests to me that our friends at Vox Clara are responsible for it. It clarifies little and obscures a number of issues. E.g., the return to “chant” in many of the music passages can be interpreted univocally to mean Gregorian chant, which it does not.

      If I could choose the translation I had to live with, it would be the provisional 2002 version.

      1. And was it voted on by the actual people these frilly hierarchs are supposed to be serving? No, wait, don’t even bother answering. :-/

  5. Don’t get me wrong – I find this all very interesting, but in the end.. I do not think you are going to have too many people calling it the “Universal Prayer” – as correct or cool as it may be. Pastorally, people are going to continue to call this ritual prayer, “Prayer of the Faithful,” or “General Intercessions” or the ever popular, “Petitions.” The same is true for moments like the Entrance Chant (which folks will still call the opening song or gathering song or entrance hymn or processional), and so forth… Again – this is very edifying, and I am also grateful to Paul for his work on this.. but let us keep it in perspective. Whether we call it “Universal Prayer” or “Prayer of the Faithful” or whatever, pastorally, the concern for me is, for example, how well are these prayers/petitions/intercessions being crafted both poetically and also theologically?

    1. David, your point is well-taken. However, with your last concern, I would suggest this: the title of the prayer (in this case, “Universal Prayer”) may well illuminate the goal of the texts of the prayer. As you say, it may not change the poetic or theological quality of the petition; however, it may encourage people to take a more outward-looking approach with said prayer. Often the petitions at Masses seem very focused solely on the community at hand (the Sunday liturgy) or on the occasion at hand (a Nuptial Mass). While this is not necessarily an evil in and of itself, “Universal Prayer” would encourage me to think more of, say, the poor and oppressed all around the world than what urbandictionary might call “first world problems”. So, the title indicates the focus of our prayer, much as “Eucharistic Prayer” would.

      *sorry to bump old topic*

  6. A weariness comes over me when I think of all the useless shuffling of terminology is yet in store. Karl’s cynical comment about shibboleths feels all too apt. I’m with you, David. What difference can it make if we do not pray any better as a result?

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