The change is to the translation of the line “lead us not into temptation,” which, in English, is a fairly exact translation of the traditional Latin version of the prayer which reads “ne nos inducas in tentationem.” The revised translations in French and Italian are more free and, following the current translation used in the Pope’s native Spanish, translate the phrase as “do not let us fall into temptation.” There are arguments to be made for either translation.
Most of the commentary presents it as an initiative of Pope Francis. However, while the Holy Father has made no secret of his positive opinion of this change, this is a translation change that has come from the CEI (Italian bishops’ conference). In accordance with Magnum Principium the Holy See has merely “recognized “ the Italian bishops modification of the translation.
This latest development is also far from surprising. Pope Francis did show his support for a similar change to the French translation in December 2017. On that occasion he even went so far as to suggest that the Italian bishops consider making a similar change.
Up until now I have personally believed that this is of any real relevance for English speakers as I simply cannot imagine Catholic bishops agreeing to change the translation. However today the Catholic Communications Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference published this press release:
Statement by Bishop Francis Duffy on the reported change to the Lord’s Prayer
In consultation with bishops from other English-speaking countries, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference will give close attention to the reported change to the Lord’s Prayer. The bishops will look at the implications for both the Irish and English translations of this much loved and universal prayer.
Bishop Francis Duffy is Bishop of Ardagh & Clonmacnois and chairperson of the Council for Liturgy of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
This now means that English speakers need to start reflecting on whether we should advocate for a change in the translation.
I personally believe that we should leave well enough alone. Undoubtedly the Our Father is hard to understand and we will always need catechesis to understand it. For the last two millennia Christians have been trying to “unpack” it’s meaning and no matter how we might tweak the translation there is little chance that we will fully exhaust the richness of the prayer before Christ returns in glory at the end of time.
But for ecumenical reasons, it is hard to imagine all Christians who use the current version agreeing to revise their translations. Likewise for evangelization purposes, it would be much easier for those who return to Catholicism after years of non-practice not to have to learn a new version. I also agree with those who believe that we shouldn’t have to dumb down the rich theological content of our Faith.
However, on the other hand, it is also true that at some stage English translation will have to be revised. The translation is archaic and not too many people use words like “art” and “thy” anymore. A local grade school teacher once told me that when she was teaching the prayer a little girl in her junior class came back the next day and repeated the prayer with “die ding dumb dumb,” which probably made just as much sense to her as “thy kingdom come!”
Th question is whether now is the moment to change, or whether we ought to wait another generation or two before. As I have said, I believe that we should wait a while, but one way or the other this now seems to be a question that we must deal with in the short term.