Settimo Cielo 06 Dic 2018
The ban imposed on the bishops of the United States on November 12 against voting on two very strict measures they wanted against sexual abuse committed by members of the hierarchy is not the only blatant recent case of interference by Pope Francis in the decisions of an episcopal conference.
During those same days, in fact, Francis also imposed his will on the Italian bishops gathered in plenary assembly, ordering them to replace the petition “and lead us not into temptation” in the “Our Father” at Mass, because in his judgment it is “not a good” translation of the text of the Gospel.
The assembly was held behind closed doors, and at the end of the work only the result of the discussion was released, with the passing of the new formula: “and do not abandon us to temptation.”
But how did we get here? This is how Settimo Cielo reconstructed the genesis of the decision.
When the question was put to discussion in the hall, on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 14, a few bishops spoke out in defense of the traditional version, asking that it be kept alive and if anything explained better to the faithful, instead of being changed.
In effect, the words “e non ci indurre in tentazione” - on a par with the English version in use in the United States: “and lead us not into temptation” - are an exact reproduction of the Latin translation still in effect in liturgical chant: “et ne nos inducas in tentationem,” which in turn is strictly faithful to the original Greek: “kai me eisenénkes hemás eis peirasmón.”
But from the moderator’s bench these voices were quickly hushed. The bishops were told that the “non ci indurre” would have to be replaced no matter what, and that the only thing they were allowed to discuss and vote on was the selection of the new translation.
This because “it had been so decided.” And the thoughts of everybody in the hall went to Pope Francis.
As the new formulation, the presidency of the episcopal conference proposed the one already contained in the Italian version of the Bible approved by the Holy See in 2008 and subsequently placed in the national liturgical lectionary: “e non abbandonarci alla tentazione.”
It was, however, allowed to propose alternative new formulations and submit them to a vote, as long as each of them had the support of at least 30 bishops.
The archbishop of Chieti and Vasto, Bruno Forte, notoriously close to the pope, gathered the necessary signatures and proposed as an alternative this other translation: “and keep us from falling into temptation.”
In support of this proposal Forte affirmed that this was the version preferred by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a great specialist in the Bible, as well as being close to the liturgical versions of the “Our Father” in other Romance languages, approved by the episcopal conferences of Spain: “Y no nos dejes caer en la tentación” and France: “Et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation.”
But against Forte came Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence, who as a biblicist and then as secretary general of the CEI had been an active promoter of the translation of the “Our Father” that went into the new official version of the Bible and the lectionary for the Mass.
Betori objected that Forte’s reference to Martini was inappropriate, because in reality even this illustrious cardinal preferred “non abbandonarci,” on a par with another erudite deceased cardinal, Giacomo Biffi, he too now cited as a witness.
To which Forte counterreplied by asserting that he had discussed the matter with Pope Francis, who had said he was okay with “fa che non cadiamo in tentazione.”
Commotion in the hall, a quick reaction from Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, and a brief back-and-forth between the two.
Then came the vote, which revealed an assembly split precisely in half: with 94 votes in favor of the proposal of the presidency and 94 in favor of Forte’s proposal.
According to the rules an amendment needs a majority of the votes to be approved, otherwise, even in the case of a tie, it does not pass.
So in the end “non abbandonarci alla tentazione” prevailed, but just barely, by a single vote.
For the record, when the new version of the “Our Father” was approved for the lectionary in 2002, Betori, who at the time was secretary general of the CEI, said: “The possible adaptation of this translation for liturgical rite and individual prayer will be made at the time of the translation of the third edition of the ‘Missale Romanum.’ But the decision that is being made now predetermines to a certain extent the future decision, since it is difficult to imagine the coexistence of two formulations.”
Today the new formula enacted back then is no longer “possible” but has become reality.
And it could not have been otherwise, seeing how Pope Francis imposed on the general assembly of the CEI the replacement of the traditional version, even blocking any bishop from coming to its defense.
Meanwhile, as of December 5, in his Wednesday general audiences the pope has begun a cycle of catecheses precisely on the “Our Father.’ It will be interesting to listen to him when he gets to the petition he wanted to have retranslated.
For more information:
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)