ICEL Update

At the recent meeting of the Catholic Academy for Liturgy in Vancouver, as is customary, there was an update on the work of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

  • The bishops of the eleven bishops’ conferences who belong to ICEL met twice in 2017. It is a time of transition and some uncertainty in the wake of Pope Francis’s apostolic letter Magnum Principium.
  • There are prayer texts in the 2011 Roman Missal that also appear in other rites (e.g. marriage, confirmation). Previously such texts would be carried over without change. But now the ICEL bishops wish to revisit such texts for possible improvement. One bishop observed that this could be the beginning of a process to revise the missal – although it remains an open question whether or not such Missal texts will be revised in other rites.
  • The eleven ICEL bishops work well together and hope that their conferences will continue to work jointly on translation – though now each conference possesses new authority on translatations in its country.
  • It was the ad limina visit of various conferences that inspired Pope Francis to establish a commission to review the translation process, which ultimately led to Magnum Principium.
  • Translations of both Christian Initiation of Adults and the Baptism of Children are quite advanced. ICEL had included editorial layout enhancements. But the Congregation for Divine Worship restated that ICEL had no authority for such editing – even to include, for example, the combined rites of baptism and reception of validly baptized candidates at the Easter Vigil. Now, of course, it appears that the conferences will have more say in the final product.
  • The Liturgy of the Hours project is continuing. Considerable work was done this year on hymns, antiphons for the gospel canticles, and intercessions. The size of the work is enormous and its timelines is difficult to predict.
  • A supplement to the Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours is well underway which will supply texts for Saints Mary Magdalene, John XXIII and John Paul II.
  • The commission just began work on the revision for the Rite of Penance.
  • The Rite of Pastoral Care of the Sick is at an even earlier stage.
  • To date, there is no revised ratio translationis (a sort translation guidebook for a particular language) which ICEL had received from the Vatican. So the path ahead is still unclear.
  • It seems that ICEL bishops want texts that are less Latinate in length of sentences and complexity of grammatical structure. They have also succeeded in producing more translations that respect gender inclusivity.

Featured photo: ICEL facilitator and note-taker Fr. Paul Turner with Pope Francis.




  1. “It was the ad limina visit of various conferences that inspired Pope Francis to establish a commission to review the translation process, which ultimately led to Magnum Principium.”

    Is this someone’s opinion, in other words, or do they have it from the Holy Father himself?

    1. Rita, from the report it’s not clear what the source is. The report simply said that “we learned” at the meeting of ICEL bishops that it arose from the ad limina meetings. So we don’t know, at least not from this report.

      1. Anglophone conferences only? Or other languages as well? I suspect the latter. Which conferences where English is the primary or a major language have had ad limina visits since Pope Francis was elected? Canada, for one.

  2. If they want the Liturgy of the Hours to be more accessible to lay people, perhaps they should consider charging less than $200 for the books. It would also be helpful if the USCCB allowed people to provide it on the internet, instead of ordering people to stop, like they did with

    1. iBrevary is has the complete ICEL translation available and is free both on the web and as an App. Also most laity use a one volume edition for Morning and Evening Prayer which is much more reasonably priced.

      1. Yes, but if you want to make a leaflet for any sort of public celebration of the Office in which the congregation sings anything at all, you are going to have an absolutely preposterous time.

        iBreviary’s PDFs do not copy/paste with formatting, and the resulting text is garbled. Universalis (Canadian) is more friendly, but differs in places from the American versions, which bothers those used to praying the American LOTH. The music for the antiphons, psalmody, and hymns must be either your own compositions or adapted from Gregorian sources, public-domain material if it chances to exist, or copyrighted material someone else cooked up, with the necessary clearances obtained. The books containing the official music of the Office are still being completed, and are in Latin – perfectly fine, but not suited to the typical American life.

        So one has to buy a few hundred copies of the Mundelein psalter at great cost, or work for hours at the computer trying to produce a usable leaflet, or sing the old office (all free and PD), or give up and recite.

        Whereas with the Mass, the readings and propers are online, with God knows how many musical settings available free, and whatever hymnals at hand will undoubtedly have useful materials, and the leaflet can be made in an hour and everyone is happy.

        How are the faithful supposed to pray and sing the LOTH together, as V2 recommends, if the holy texts are prohibitively expensive to acquire, and not available for printing in a usable fashion?

  3. Does any know of the bishops are still planning to use the Revised Grail Psalter? If so, would Conception Abbey still hold the copyright?

  4. Fr. Ruff, is there a source for the info in the article? Or was these just observations from the presentation? Either way I’d like to know more.

    1. Patrick,
      Fr. Turner read his report and gave me a copy of the text he read out. I judged that text to be excellent for an aural report. But as an blog editor I adapted it lightly so as to make it a readable blog post. I’m confident that I’ve transmitted the text fideliter!

      1. But Father, shouldn’t you have translated it into Latin first before your final rendering from the Latin into English?

      2. Thank you Fr. Ruff. Obviously this sort of stuff takes time and ICEL doesn’t want to create false expectations, but I certainly hope they learned their lessons from the RM 2010 process, that being communication is key!

  5. Ugh- PLEASE dump the combined rites at the Vigil. We will not break the RCIA “school year” mentality until that is no longer allowed.

    1. I’m afraid it will continue until the Church makes a move — for example, stipulating that the Elect are baptized at the Vigil but candidates for full communion are received at Pentecost. However, the likelihood of that happening is nil because no one in Rome has any experience of RCIA and therefore no understanding of the pastoral problems at grass-roots level that we are all very familiar with.

      It’s another symptom of the peculiar situation that Rome occupies. No understanding of RCIA because everyone here’s Catholic, aren’t they? No understanding of lay ministers of Communion because there are so many priests in Rome that lay ministers aren’t necessary and are therefore never seen. Those two examples can be replicated in many other areas.

      So you have a centre that has no idea what it is like at the coal face. That is why Francis’s continued thrust towards the peripheries of the Church is so valuable. He understands that although Rome thinks it knows what makes the Church tick, it actually doesn’t have the faintest idea, because the Roman experience is so different from everyone else’s reality.

      The additional question, to bring this reflection back on topic, is whether ICEL has any real idea what things are like at parish level, or whether the production of texts takes place in an abstracted vacuum.

      1. Paul, I’m not sure I understand your argument. The people who asked for and use the combined rites are those with plenty of experience of the RCIA (i.e. people in parishes where the RCIA is actually done). The combined rites may be a bad idea (I’m not convinced that they are, myself; but I also don’t think it’s a terrible thing if people want to read along with the readings, so my judgment is questionable), but they are not bad because they are foisted on us by people in Rome who have no experience of the RCIA.

      2. As much as I am sure the malaise Paul speaks of is real in many situations, I must correct the historical record with respect to the RCIA.

        The authorities in Rome were actually opposed to the combined rites that were included in the 1988 edition, and only allowed them because of the urging of the pastors who were on the committee which worked on the American adaptations: Jim Dunning, Don Neumann, Bob Duggan, and Ray Kemp. The argument they used was that people were already doing combined rites because the people they ministered to were all over the map, and it was better to put some order into this de facto pastoral situation than to just say “no” and have the situation develop in a haphazard way with each parish devising its own idiosyncratic adaptations.

        It was only the liturgical purists who refused absolutely to do any combined rites. Most of the US pastors were looking at a situation in which they would throw up their hands or not do the RCIA at all if they couldn’t include the baptized somehow or other. And, to be fair, Part II, chapter IV actually encourages a sharing in the liturgical rites of the RCIA for the baptized but uncatechized. The act of devising something that would make distinctions but minister to all was a creative response to a real challenge, and it came, most definitely, from the pastors at the grassroots, not from Rome.

        Rome acquiesced, with the proviso that ritual distinctions be kept. Many of our bishops have had positive experiences with the combined rites and are not keen on jettisoning them completely, or telling their pastors they must no longer use them, ever. No one who dislikes them is compelled to use them after all.

      3. Rita, my first exposure to the RCIA was when I was working as a Jesuit Volunteer in Don Neumann’s parish in 1984-85 (my own reception into the Church, in 1982, was done outside of the context of RCIA). Though I wouldn’t do everything the way Don did it, it did set a kind of standard for my thinking about the RCIA. We even constructed a font for immersion out of a horse trough (this was before they renovated the church).

        I think the point about the combined rites, while perhaps suboptimal, preventing even worse abuses is correct. I remember in the 80s parishes having baptized candidates for full communion go through the scrutinies; my sense is that this is rarer now, in part because the combined rites give a kind of how-to that people can follow.

      4. There are two competing values at work here:

        (1) Liturgists who say that the pastoral problem is the confusion, certainly in the minds of ordinary parishioners, between catechumens and candidates. In part, it’s a problem of terminology. Even at the combined Rite of Election and Continuing Conversion it is fairly common to find people who don’t actually know if they are fish or fowl. The rite itself unhelpfully refers to candidates (for eventual baptism) as well as candidates (for reception into the full communion of the Church).
        These liturgists say that candidates should not only be received at a different time from the baptism of the Elect but they should receive separate formation and even be fast-tracked since they have already been baptised. I want to stress that I am not in favour of this at all. In my view, this kind of thing has resulted in, for example, numbers of Anglicans who have been received into the Catholic Church and yet who are still Anglicans for all intents and purposes. The Ordinariate phenomenon has only exacerbated this. Even if you have been baptised it takes an amount of time, certainly more than a year, to absorb the ethos of being a Catholic. It’s not merely about acquiescing to doctrine.

        (2) Liturgists who say that the combined rites alleviate many other pastoral problems, as Rita and Fritz have said. I agree absolutely with that, and think it’s not so much a case of “we won’t do RCIA unless we can incorporate the candidates” as “we won’t do RCIA unless we can incorporate the catechumens”! I am a proponent of a common formation for both groups. The way in which the combined rites are done is, however, not yet ideal. The 1988 US edition was a good start, but we have serious work to do in this regard. Hopefully bishops will consult about this, even if ICEL doesn’t.

  6. We’ve implemented the Year Round process. Prior to this, we just brought everyone in at the vigil. This is a disservice to the folks already baptized, I believe, and there certainly is strong language in the Rite that discourages it, though then provides a rite for it anyway.
    We’ve had two Easter Vigils with only those to be brought in by way of baptism through confirmation. It makes the liturgy so much more easy to navigate – and we’ve added all of the readings and psalms, and due to the savings of time in omitting “full initiation,” Mass runs the same amount of time.
    However, the biggest fruits would be not withholding Communion or the sealing of the Spirit on people so we could all “graduate” together at the Vigil – they do participate in sessions with the unbaptized, but not all. These people are evaluated on where they are and then we develop a curriculum as it were to meet their needs. Now we welcome people into full communion at weekend liturgies, and it has been good for the assembly and has yielded more people seeking full initiation.
    I guess I am a purist on this one – respect the ancient beauty and purpose of the Vigil.

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