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Online Edition - Vol. II, No. 9; February 1997

New Zealand Ex-Priest Translates Mass For ICEL

"We seldom refer to God as Him or Father"

"I've been fortunate to be a part of a project that has quite extraordinary ramifications, historical and societal, beyond anything I could have ever envisaged," said Dr. Ken Larsen, an ex-priest from Auckland, New Zealand. He is one of the two principal translators of the revision of the Roman Missal proposed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy [ICEL].

Larsen and an American Jesuit, Father James Devereaux, spent more than ten years working for ICEL on the Sacramentary revision, according to an interview reprinted in the NZ Catholic December 1, 1996. A major objective of the revision of the Missal was to incorporate "inclusive language", Larsen noted.

"We seldom refer to God as Him or Father, and in general we avoid personal pronouns," Larsen said. "There are odd occasions where the word Pater occurs in Latin and sometimes you can't get around using the word Father. But in general we have been very meticulous in keeping to the principle of inclusive language."

Father Devereaux, the pastor of St. Peter Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, was formerly a professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a past provincial of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.

The two men worked with a team of five other translators to revise the Missal, the NZ Catholic story said. Other consultants and an advisory body of 25 Scripture and liturgy experts also contributed to the project.

Larsen, a senior lecturer in the department of English at Auckland University, said his grounding in Latin and theology and his Cambridge doctorate in Renaissance English qualified him for translating the Mass texts. He was tapped in 1976 to work on the new translations after he told ICEL officials that the Introduction to the Lord's Prayer was not working, according to the news story.

The ICEL translations are used by English-speaking Catholics throughout the worldthe United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and eighteen other countries where English is used in Catholic worship.

"Liturgies have shaped the cadence of language in the past," Larsen pointed out, commenting on the enormous historical import and impact of the proposed ICEL Missal revision. Together, the Sacramentary (Roman Missal) and the Lectionary and comprise the texts used for Mass.

The proposed ICEL Sacramentary was approved by the American bishops in November. If approved by the Vatican, it would replace the current version in use since 1974.

Larsen said he had also worked on the new ICEL texts for marriage, confirmation, baptism and ordination of priests.

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