October 10, 2011
Dear brothers and sisters who assist in the liturgical and catechetical ministries of the Church,

This coming First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011, the Church in our country will implement the liturgical norms of the third “typical edition” of the Roman Missal, as well as the revised Liturgical Calendar for the Dioceses of Canada. “Typical edition” means the text is the official version to which all copies and translations are to conform.

That same day, English-speaking Roman Catholics in Canada and many other countries will celebrate the liturgy using the revised translation of the Missal.


The present revision of the Missal and its liturgical norms follows the announcement in 2000 by Pope John Paul II that there would be a third edition of the Roman Missal. The revised Latin text was published by the Vatican in 2002, and later amended by the Holy See in 2008.

However, the need for a review of all the vernacular translations of the Roman Missal had already been announced by the Holy See in 1975. This was not only to ensure translations were accurate and complete, but also to involve more effective use in the revised liturgy of the imagery and language of the Sacred Scriptures and the writings of the early Church.

In 1980, the international episcopal commission for liturgical translations in English consulted clergy and liturgists on how the translation could be improved.

The norms for celebrating the liturgy are outlined in an official text found at the beginning of the Roman Missal and known as the General Instruction.

The General Instruction for the third typical edition follows the principles approved by the Second Vatican Council. It also includes accommodations to meet the most current needs of the Church in its continuing response to contemporary culture.

A number of these accommodations involve adaptations for a particular country, as requested and approved by its bishops and subsequently confirmed by the Holy See.

The adaptations for Canada include the choice of music for the liturgy; gestures for the Sign of Peace; movements and postures of the congregation during the liturgy; the way Communion is to be distributed; the colours of vestments; and the designation of special days of prayer during the liturgical year (known as Rogation Days).


The liturgical calendar is part of the Roman Missal. This means the revised liturgical calendar approved for the dioceses of Canada is part of the Roman Missal being published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for implementation this November.

The calendar is the basis as well for the annual Ordo also published by our conference, and the revisions of the liturgical calendar for Canada will be reflected in the 2011-12 English and French editions of the Ordo.

At the same time that all the bishops of the world have been involved in approving the translations of the General Instruction and its adaptations for their own specific countries, the bishops of Canada and of other lands have been reviewing draft English translations of the revised Roman Missal, offering comments, and giving official approval for the new translation and its use in their individual countries.

Translations into other major languages of the world are also underway, following the same intensive and lengthy process. The work is proceeding well among the French-language bishops of Canada and other countries, with the assistance of the international episcopal commission for liturgical translations in French. The revised Roman Missal for use in French in Canada and other countries is expected within the next few years.

Over the past year, our conference has received confirmations from the Holy See for the English-language revision of the Roman Missal for use in Canada, the revised liturgical calendar for all the dioceses of Canada, and the liturgical adaptations specific to Canada.

This official approval by the Holy See means only one version of the revised Missal is approved in each country for each language being used.


Many Catholics will not notice much difference from the former liturgical norms or earlier translations of the Roman Missal. After all, the Mass always remains basically the same, no matter the rite, language or translation.

Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24.13-35), through the Eucharist we “discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body” (Pope Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, 97).

For this reason, we come together, glorifying God and confessing our unworthiness. We listen to the Word of God. We pray for all in need. We prepare the gifts of bread and wine which will become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so we can partake in his living sacrifice.

In the Eucharistic Prayer, we recall his death and resurrection, and pray that the Holy Spirit make us one in the Lord. We pray to Our Father in the words the Lord gave us. We deepen our faith, hope and love through communion with him and one another. We are sent forth again on God’s mission, blessed, encouraged and strengthened by the life-giving Trinity.

Nevertheless, the revised liturgical norms for all of Canada do involve some changes. These are intended to assist the community of faith as it continues to dialogue with the contemporary world, while also making more evident for our day the Church’s continuity in all times and places.

Many Canadian congregations will experience a change as to when they stand and kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. Obviously, we must accommodate the physical needs of individuals in the congregation, whether because of age, illness or other circumstances.

At the same time, we want to encourage a harmonious, orderly and reverent response to the words of the Eucharistic Prayer.

Furthermore, the principles governing the revised norms remind us it is important for all liturgical texts as much as possible to use terms and images from the Sacred Scriptures. As well, translations of the Roman Missal are to reflect the meaning and vocabulary of its original Latin text.

Roman Catholics, as distinct from Eastern Catholics, follow the liturgical tradition of the Roman or Latin Church, which has as its centre the Church of Rome. In other words, the “Latin” tradition is the common heritage of Roman Catholics.

Other than the few changes that may be noticed in the revised liturgical norms, and the enriched liturgical vocabulary which may especially strike English-speaking Catholics, the revised translation of the Roman Missal into English will include some other modifications:

In the dialogue involving the celebrant and the community, a few responses have been slightly altered, such as “And with your spirit” (instead of “And also with you”). This way our English-language usage will be more in keeping with the phrasing used in most other languages, while also explicitly reminding us that the spiritual dynamic is fundamental to our prayer and worship.

The wording of the ancient hymn Glory to God in the Highest will now be closer to the original versions in both Greek and Latin, dating back at least to the fourth century, while the language of what is now called the Nicene Creed when used in the liturgy will become closer to the original Greek, from the fourth and fifth centuries, as well as to the historic Latin and English translations.

At the same time that the choice of words used in the liturgy will more effectively reflect the vocabulary from Scripture and our Latin tradition, there is also an effort to retain, whenever possible, elements traditional among all English-speaking Christians. These will be evident in the choice of some wording, and at times in how the prayers are constructed or phrased.


Examples include the continued use of the traditional translation of the Our Father, and a return to the use of the word “consubstantial” in the Nicene Creed – a word dating back to William Caxton in 1483, who is credited with printing the first Bible in English. This common heritage reflects not only what Catholics have received from other Christians since the Reformation, but also what Catholics have contributed since the first Anglo-Saxon translations in the seventh and eighth centuries.


All the changes in the revised liturgical norms and in the new English translation of the Roman Missal are to encourage a deeper sense of our unity in the Lord and as a community. Catholics live and worship in union with the Holy Father and our bishops. Our identity requires us to be in living continuity with the traditions of the Sacred Scriptures and the early Church. Our communion unites all who are members of the Roman and Eastern Catholic churches.

But the members of the Roman Catholic Church also share and participate in a specific form of worship which is basically the same for all the Catholic Church of the West. “Roman Catholics” follow the liturgical rite and disciplinary practices of the Church of Rome.

In addition, English-speaking and French-speaking Roman Catholics each have their own long and rich heritages, which include a vocabulary developed over the centuries with other Christians.

Being in unity with the pope and our bishops, and in communion with the Church throughout the world and in all ages, is reflected in the harmony and order of the worshipping community. “God is a God not of disorder, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14.33).

A practical application of this is that the edition published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will be the only new English translation of the Roman Missal approved by the Holy See and the bishops of Canada for use in our country. A similar requirement will be in place for the revision of the French version of the Missal approved for Canada when it is later published.


The Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, reminds us that in celebrating the Liturgy on earth, “we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims” (no. 8).

Particularly in the years since the council, this pilgrimage involves continuing efforts to restore and promote the sacred liturgy, so “that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy” (no. 14).

These most recent changes thus become an invitation to each of us to deepen our understanding of and appreciation for the liturgy, in which we are to be actively involved – body, heart and mind (no. 19).

For this reason, the bishops of Canada have already made available a number of special resources for implementing the liturgical norms of the revised Roman Missal and its English translation for use in our country. Other new resources are also being developed, in both official languages.

As well as the printed materials being provided by individual dioceses and by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, our conference now provides a special English-language website,

Over the past three years, the English Sector Commission for Liturgy and the Sacraments, assisted by the National Liturgy Office, has been working in preparation with pastors, liturgists and pastoral assistants across the country.

Later this year, our French Sector Commission for Liturgy and the Sacraments, with the Office national de liturgie, will be releasing materials to help dioceses and parishes implement the liturgical norms of the revised General Instruction in French. The whole Church wishes to profit from this particular catechetical moment, so all the People of God are “imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14).

However helpful these resources from our conference and others that will be available regionally or locally, it will be most important for all the faithful in each diocese to collaborate closely with their own bishop.

Priests, deacons, members of religious institutes as well as societies of apostolic life and the laity are to follow their bishop’s specific diocesan directives for implementing the revised edition of the Roman Missal and its liturgical norms. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, “Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the ‘sacrament of unity,’ namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 26).


Writing about the Eucharist almost 2,000 years ago, St. Paul said:

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

“In the same way, he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. . . .

“So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (1 Corinthians 11.23-33).

The introduction of the revised Roman Missal and its liturgical norms is an invitation to deepen our unity as the body of Christ. On behalf of the bishops of Canada, I invite everyone to embrace the new norms and welcome the new translation.

In our communal celebrations, the words, gestures and postures we use at worship are an important sign of our unity and harmony. The clergy and faithful of each diocese are to follow the direction of their bishop on the posture they are to have during the liturgy, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer.

Similarly, when travelling to other places, one should use the posture which has been decided for that particular diocese.

Brothers and sisters, this is a moment of grace and thanksgiving, an opportunity for renewing the community of faith through our renewed appreciation for the gift of the liturgy. With the assistance of the revised Roman Missal and its norms, may our eyes and ears be fully opened, our hearts and minds turned, to that eternal moment in which with every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and sea, we sing in adoration and worship

To the One seated on the Throne
and to the Lamb
. . . blessing and honour and glory and might
forever and ever. (Revelation 5.13)