FORT WORTH, Texas — A Roman Catholic priest smiled with joy Sunday afternoon as he greeted Catholics after the last Mass of the day at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Fort Worth.
“I had told them that I had been waiting since 1964 for this,” The Rev. Pio Maria Hoffmann said. “Even though I was born in 1975.”
Hoffmann was referring to a new translation of the Mass that was introduced to Roman Catholics on Sunday as the church entered a new chapter in its history, saying prayers that are different from those that have been recited for more than four decades.
In churches all across the world, Catholics gazed at new pew cards and pronounced new phrases as several hundred million people began the transition to new, more formal words of worship. The new translation, which alters some of the most familiar phrases of the Catholic liturgy, was introduced in every English-language Mass in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and India this weekend.
Church officials praised the new translation, saying it is more authentic, more faithful and more accurate.
And several parishioners at St. Patrick’s Cathedral downtown agreed on Sunday afternoon. St. Patrick’s sacristan Michael Fronk said he thinks the congregation will get the new wording down by Christmas.
“It’s very historic,” Bishop Kevin Vann, leader of the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese, said Sunday.
“We’ve been in preparation for about three years with seminars for priests and others.”
But some clergy and liturgical scholars have disagreed with the new translation. Critics have bemoaned it as being too slavish to the Latin, and in the process abandoning some of the ecumenical goals that influenced the last translation, such as a move toward common prayers with Protestant faiths.
On the website whatifwejustsaidwait.org, more than 22,000 people, including many priests, signed an online petition to postpone introduction of the Mass. An association of hundreds of Irish priests called for the translation to be scrapped. And some leading liturgical scholars, called to assist with the preparation of the new text, objected to its alleged inelegance.
Most of its opponents are now resigned to using it, according to the Rev. Michael Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, who started the Web petition to postpone the new text. For his part, he plans to stick carefully to what he is given.
“I am not going to change a word, because the only way it will get evaluated is if people hear it as it is,” he said. “I trust the people will indeed speak up.”
Meanwhile, the Rev. Daniel Merz, associate director of the secretariat of Divine Worship of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the new translation had been widely discussed.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a document that’s been so consulted in the history of the world,” he said. He called the new text more poetic than the simple language used for the last 40 years.
“Over time, we have realized that there is a better way to pray,” he said.
“Not that the old way was bad, but we hope and believe that this new way is better.”
Mfrances is a staff writer for CatholicFavors.com that deals high quality Catholic related jewelry including affordable gold rosary bracelets, silver rosary bracelets, and Catholic gifts of the Holy Spirit.