“Atmosphere Change” in Rome: Japanese Bishops Feel Heard regarding Translation

Rome and Tokyo close in on agreement over Missal translation,” the Asian independent Catholics news agency UCANews reports.

In past years , the Japanese bishops have experienced similar difficulties with Rome on liturgical translations as other countries. But here’s good news:

Recently however, “the atmosphere in the Congregation has changed dramatically,” said Bishop Masahiro Umemura of Yokohama, president of the Committee for the Liturgy at the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Japan (CBCJ).

Bishop Umemura visited with officials of the Congregation for Divine Worship in March. “There was reason to expect Bishop Umemura’s reception to be a cold one,” UCANews writes. Rome had been insisting that Et cum spiritu tuo be translated “And with your spirit,” but the Japanese bishops had pushed for “And also with you” because of the unacceptable connotations of the Japanese word for “spirit.”

“In the past, the Congregation kept merely reiterating basic principles and regulations,” recalled Bishop Umemura. But, to his surprise, “this time they gave us a chance to actually explain our reasons for the changes.”

Pope Francis is seen to be the reason for the change of atmosphere in Rome:

Bishop Umemura believes that Pope Francis’ ascension to the papacy is having a significant influence. “I felt that the pope’s inclination to let the local bishops handle their own affairs has been given considerable weight throughout the Curia.”

Read the entire story here.



  1. A distinct change from last time round with MR 1/2. Then, the only person in Rome the Congregation could find who knew Japanese was a first-year Japanese seminarian. They gave him the Missal proofs to look at. In his manifest ignorance, he made many changes which were then imposed by the Congregation on the Japanese bishops. Perhaps that’s where the response “And also with the priest” came from.

    Archbishop Roche is a very reasonable man to deal with. Let us hope that the same will be true of the next Prefect of the Congregation, and that he will be named soon!

  2. “And also with the priest” “Mata shisai to tomo ni” is ok in Japanese — just a polite way of saying “And also with you”. But the new translation threatened to be “And also with your ghost”.

    I dislike “mata anata to tomo ni” — having always been told that “anata” is a rude thing to say except to your spouse — and do Japanese not worry about the jingly sound of “mata anata”?

  3. Hopefully Bishop Umemura will have even more good news to report when we have the annual gathering of directors of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions this coming September. The problematic of the response to “The Lord be with you” is but one of a list of ongoing translation issues that were recalled at last years gathering.
    To give an example of a current outstanding issue, since the options for translating “spouse” all carry problematic nuances or are no longer part of contemporary speech, the Bishops Liturgical Commission , requested that we be allowed just to insert the name “St Joseph” into the Eucharistic Prayers; the proposal was submitted back last summer, and we still await an answer. When at last years Sept gathering we also discussed the matter, should the proposal meet with opposition from the Congregation, all agreed that passing on translating “spouse” was the safest option.
    The longer I live and work in Japan, getting close to 40 years, I am aware of the problems inherent in translating from Latin, or indeed any other European language, into Japanese. And translating the other way is equally difficult at times. The principles set down in Liturgiam Authenticam completely ignore the difference in syntax and rhetoric of languages like Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
    Paul Inwood recalls, what I have come to regard as possibly an urban legend, the story of how early translations were given to Japanese seminarians to proofread. From around 1970 there have been Japanese priests from religious orders or dioceses doing graduate studies in Rome. The SVD Generalate has currently one Japanese among its membership, and the current dean of the Canon Law Faculty at the Gregorian is a Japanese Jesuit. Possibly the last Japanese diocesan seminarians to study in Rome were those ordained in the mid-sixties, who would include our Bishop here in Nagoya; he marks his Golden Jubilee in December this year, and smiles quizzically when this story occasionally surfaces.

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