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Translations Matter – On Pope Francis’s Magnum principium

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Magnum principium, Pope Francis’s motu proprio on the translation of liturgical texts,  decentralizes the process of preparing and approving translations of liturgical books and restores this responsibility to each Episcopal Conference. The “great principle” from which the document takes its name is “the full active participation of all God’s holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the Eucharist” as advocated by the Second Vatican Council (
Sacrosanctum concilium 41). This two-page document has implications that go well beyond immediate liturgical concerns and touches on the church’s identity, the relationship between the
local churches and the Roman Curia, inculturation, ecumenism, and the Church’s witness to the Kingdom of God. In his 2013 document “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis had written that “Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach” (Evangelii gaudium 32). Magnum principium addresses this state of affairs and offers another instance whereby Pope Francis calls the Church to live the vision proposed by Vatican II.