Pope Francis has approved the new edition of the Roman Missal in the Italian language. This includes a translation which Benedict XVI, then Pope, considered—rightly so—to be erroneous, and for which he had requested corrections.
The consecration of the precious Blood in the canon of the Mass includes, both in the traditional missal and in the new missal, this formula: “Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei, … qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur -- For this is the chalice of my Blood… which shall be shed for you and for many.”
However, after the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, many vernacular versions translated it: “which shall be shed for you and for all.” So in English - for all, in German - für alle, in Spanish - por todos, and in Italian - per tutti. In French, there is a certain ambiguity, the most usual translation being: “pour la multitude.”
Benedict XVI’s Intervention
Three months after his election, Benedict XVI undertook to correct this point. He first requested a consultation of the world’s bishops which was carried out by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
On October 17, 2006, Cardinal Arinze, prefect of the said congregation, addressed a letter to all the presidents of the episcopal conferences. He found that many vernacular translations used “for all” and claimed that this did not undermine the validity of the Mass.
However, he gave six reasons for using the translation “for many”:
- the fact that these words are taken from the holy Gospel – Mt. 26:28 and Mk. 14:24. (In Greek the term is “polloi” which means “much”);
- the Roman rite has always said “pro multis”;
- the oriental rites have the same or equivalent terms;
- the exact translation of “pro multis” is “for many”;
- repeated requests from the Vatican to ensure the accuracy of translations;
- the most important argument recalled - without naming it - the distinction between objective and subjective redemption.
By objective redemption we mean the fact that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to save all mankind. This is what is expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Adoro Te: “cujus una stilla salvum fácere, totum mundum quit ab ómni scélere – Blood whereof one drop for humankind outpoured, might from all transgression have the world restored.”
But salvation is not something automatic: the soul must participate in it, repenting of its faults and adhering to its redeemer. Subjective redemption is therefore the actual redemption of a soul to whom the merits of our Lord are effectively applied. But not all will be saved, as Jesus Christ affirms in the Gospel of the last judgment in Mt 25: 31-46.
Explanations From the Council of Trent
Here is how the Catechism of the Council of Trent explains these words: “The additional words for you and for many are taken, some from Matthew, some from Luke, but were joined together by the Catholic Church under the guidance of the Spirit of God. They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion.”
“For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but it we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race. When therefore (our Lord) said: For you, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people, such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking. When He added, And for many, He wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles.
“With reason, therefore, were the words for all not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation. And this is the purport of the Apostle when he says: Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of the many (Heb. 9:26); and also of the words of our Lord in John: I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given men, because they are thine” (Jn.17:9).
After Benedict XVI’s intervention, certain vernacular translations corrected their choice of words and took up the formula “for many”: thus in Germany, in Spain, in Hungary, in the United States, in the United Kingdom, and in various Latin American countries. In contrast, Austria and Italy refused. Today, this refusal receives the support of Pope Francis.
The latter thus takes the opposite direction of his predecessor’s actions, and reinforces a translation that we can rightly qualify as erroneous, since it respects neither the text of the missal, nor the Gospel text, inspired by God, from which it is taken. The translation “for all” dangerously evokes the idea that everyone is saved, regardless of their attitude toward God.
The mercy of God is not made more manifest through such a manipulation, which, on the contrary, distorts it and makes us forget that it is always linked to justice. We must turn again to the gospel of the end times.