A text of capital importance: Cardinal Arinze’s letter to the presidents of bishops’ Conferences about the translation of the “pro multis”

Source: FSSPX News


Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments sent a letter, dated October 17, 2006, to all the presidents of bishops’ Conferences, asking them to prepare the faithful by appropriate catechesis for the introduction of the translation of the Latin text pro multis by “for many” instead of “for all” in the words of consecration of the Precious Blood.



 [To their Eminences /Excellencies,

Presidents of the National Episcopal Conferences]



Prot. n. 467/05/L


Rome, 17 October 2006



Your Eminence / Your Excellency,


In July 2005 this Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to all Presidents of Conferences of Bishops to ask their considered opinion regarding the translation into the various vernaculars of the expression pro multis in the formula for the consecration of the Precious Blood during the celebration of Holy Mass (ref. Prot. n. 467/05/L of 9 July 2005).

 The replies received from the Bishops’ Conferences were studied by the two Congregations and a report was made to the Holy Father.  At his direction, this Congregation now writes to Your Eminence / Your Excellency in the following terms:

 1. A text corresponding to the words pro multis, handed down by the Church, constitutes the formula that has been in use in the Roman Rite in Latin from the earliest centuries.  In the past 30 years or so, some approved vernacular texts have carried the interpretive translation “for all”, “per tutti”, or equivalents.

 2. There is no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of Masses celebrated with the use of a duly approved formula containing a formula equivalent to “for all”, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has already declared (cf. Sacra Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Declaratio de sensu tribuendo adprobationi versionum formularum sacramentalium, 25 Ianuarii 1974, AAS 66 [1974], 661).  Indeed, the formula “for all” would undoubtedly correspond to a correct interpretation of the Lord’s intention expressed in the text.  It is a dogma of faith that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women (cf. John 11:52; 2 Corinthians 5,14-15; Titus 2,11; 1 John 2,2).

 3. There are, however, many arguments in favour of a more precise rendering of the traditional formula pro multis

 a. The Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26,28; Mk 14,24) make specific reference to “many” ([Greek word transliterated as

polloin])) for whom the Lord is offering the Sacrifice, and this wording has been emphasized by some biblical scholars in connection with the words of the prophet Isaiah (53, 11-12).  It would have been entirely possible in the Gospel texts to have said “for all” (for example, cf. Luke 12,41); instead, the formula given in the institution narrative is “for many”, and the words have been faithfully translated thus in most modern biblical versions.

b. The Roman Rite in Latin has always said pro multis and never pro omnibus in the consecration of the chalice.

 c. The anaphoras of the various Oriental Rites, whether in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, the Slavic languages, etc., contain the verbal equivalent of the Latin pro multis in their respective languages.

d. “For many” is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas “for all” is rather an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.

e. The expression “for many”, while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one’s willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the “many” to whom the text refers.

f. In line with the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, effort should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.

 4. The Bishops’ Conferences of those countries where the formula “for all” or its equivalent is currently in use are therefore requested to undertake the necessary catechesis of the faithful on this matter in the next one or two years to prepare them for the introduction of a precise vernacular translation of the formula pro multis (e.g, “for many”, “per molti”, etc.) in the next translation of the Roman Missal that the Bishops and the Holy See will approve for use in their country.

With the expression of my high esteem and respect, I remain, Your Eminence/Your Excellency,


Devotedly Yours in Christ,


Francis Card. Arinze



This is how Archbishop Lefebvre explained to the seminarians at Ecône the importance of an exact translation of the pro multis:


The expression “for many” translated by “for all” in most vernacular languages

The Latin formula, such as it was given by the reform [of the Mass in 1969, Ed.], still uses the term pro multis (for many), but the translation in most of the vernacular languages is completely wrong, because it says: pro omnibus (for all). This is contrary to what the Church heard from Our Lord when He said these words. In the application of Redemption, everybody is not saved: Our Lord came to save all men, but all men will not profit by it, because some men, through their own fault, do not want to receive the graces of Redemption. This is why the term points to the application of Redemption which concerns many souls, but not all. (Spiritual Conference, Ecône, March 21, 1977)


The translations are bad; they are absolutely contrary to what the Catechism of the Council of Trent teaches. The Catechism of the Council of Trent explains why Our Lord did not say pro omnibus, and why, in the Mass, we do not say pro omnibus but pro multis (cf. Catechism of the Council of Trent, ch. 18 § 3). If this Catechism deemed it fitting to explain this in detail, it is because it is important, because the merits of Our Lord are not applied to all. Unfortunately this is a fact. Otherwise, there would be no hell. If everybody really profited in a final manner by the merits of Our Lord, everybody would go to Heaven. (Spiritual Conference, Ecône, February15, 1979)


These texts have been published in French in La Messe de toujours (The Mass of All Time), a collection of texts by Archbishop Lefebvre on the Mass. Clovis editions, pp. 300-301)