Bp. Roche interviewed about the new liturgical translation

There is a ZENIT interview with His Excellency Most Reverend Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, the chairman of ICEL.

To put this in context you might remember these recent entries from WDTPRS.  First, Bp. Roche issued a dreadful statement about Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum.  Also, ICEL recently issued a press release about the progress of the new translation of the Missale Romanum they are preparing.

My emphases and comments in what follows.

 

A Richer Liturgical Translation: Interview With Bishop Roche

LEEDS, England, NOV. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The English translation of the 2002 Roman Missal in Latin will be an opportunity for the faithful to discover the great theological richness of the text, according to the bishop in charge of the translation process.

Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), announced Nov. 1 [I have a link to that entry above.] that the draft phase of the process to translate the 2002 Roman Missal from Latin to English has been completed.

He reported that the last installment — the appendices — of the draft version of the English translation was sent to the bishops of the commission’s 11 member conferences.

In this interview with ZENIT, the bishop comments on the five-year process of translating the sacred liturgy, and how he thinks this translation will serve as an opportunity for catechesis.

Q: Can you describe the process of translation from the original text in Latin? How many editors and translators have worked on the text sent out now to the bishops?

Bishop Roche: It is quite a long process and very thorough as it involves a wide number of people. For example, each text is translated initially by a base translator, who has the "nihil obstat" of the Holy See. This version is seen by three or four revisors, who send their comments to the secretariat of ICEL, where a revised version is prepared that takes these comments into account.

This revised version then goes before an editorial committee composed of six people, the majority of whom are bishops. They further revise the text and propose a version for submission to the 11 bishops of the commission. When the commission meets it discusses the text, amends it if necessary, and then sends it out as a draft version in a Green Book to all the bishops of ICEL’s member conferences.

These bishops consult whom they wish, and send their comments to the secretariat; local liturgical commissions often assist in this process by making a provisional collation of the comments.

By this time the text has been seen by a great number of people.
[Too many maybe?] The commission then reviews the text once again in the light of comments received, and either sends out another Green Book for further consultation, or issues a Gray Book, which contains its final version.

It is at this point that the bishops take a canonical vote on the text and forward it to Rome for the "recognitio" by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

Q: In translations, a decision often has to be made between translating exact words and translating concepts (formal equivalence versus dynamic equivalence). In translating the liturgy, how is that decision made, and what are the implications for bad liturgical translations?  [A good question from ZENIT!]

Bishop Roche: The terms "formal equivalence" and "dynamic equivalence" are outmoded these days. They have been abandoned by their originator, Eugene Nida, who considered that his theories had been misunderstood and abused. Translation theory has moved on since the 1960s.

Language conveys not only facts and concepts but also images and feelings. We use words not only to say things but also to do things. These considerations are clearly important for the translation of the liturgy.

Just a quick example. There are various ways in which one can ask a person to close a door: "Shut the door"; "Shut the door, please"; "Would you mind closing the door, please?" Which, if any, of the courteous forms is appropriate for the liturgy?

The prayers of the Roman rite do not order God around, they respectfully request and plead. Nor do they tell God who he is, they acknowledge his greatness and his power, his love and his compassion and generosity.

Q: Other than the problem of literal-versus-conceptual translation, what is the main difficulty in translating Latin texts into the vernacular?

Bishop Roche: Latin shows the function of a word by means of its ending, English by its place in the sentence. In Latin, word order often expresses emphasis. English has to try to convey this, but has fewer means for doing so.

In some cases, Latin has many words for a concept for which English has few — for example, "love." Sometimes, the reverse is true.  [Not the best answer, perhaps.]

Q: Can you comment on some of the principal differences between the translation of the 2002 Roman Missal, and that of the one translated more than 30 years ago?

Bishop Roche: When the present English missal was published back in the 1970s, it was readily accepted by the bishops of the day that the translation would need to be revisited, because the translation had been done speedily in order to supply an English text, as quickly as possible, for the revised liturgy.  [What a tragic decision that was!]

The new English translation of the now third edition of the Latin "Missale Romanum" will be a fuller and therefore a more faithful translation. We have endeavored to ensure a nobility of language as well as faithfulness to the Latin words and to the origins of the prayers themselves. A great deal more time and expertise, from a very wide range of scholars as well as bishops, has been employed producing the new translation.

So, for example, the new English texts will show more clearly the relationship between the liturgical texts and their scriptural origins. [?] Let me give you an example in order to demonstrate this as well as the painstaking scholarship that goes into the translation of a text.

Sometimes at Mass we hear the priest greet us with these words: "The grace and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, be with you all." ICEL is proposing this: "Grace to you and peace from God, Our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Some will wonder "why make such a trivial change, what difference does it make?" Well, that greeting, "Grace to you and peace from God, Our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," comes eight times in those exact words, in the letters of St. Paul. Outside the writings of St. Paul in the New Testament, the phrase, "Grace to you and peace," occurs in the First and Second letters of St. Peter and in the Book of Revelation. It is a slightly odd form, "Grace to you and peace from God," with the two nouns, "grace" and "peace," and the "to you" between them. 

Wouldn’t it be more natural to say, "Grace and peace to you?" I think it probably would be. But the fact that it occurs so often in the New Testament, no less than 11 times, suggests that that distinctive form of words has been a greeting among the Christian people from the very earliest times.

And you know the way it is sometimes, when you greet somebody or somebody greets you, the way they greet you tells you what sort of person they are, where they come from, from where they belong. Sometimes it’s a secret sign, maybe a handshake or a wink. Or it might be a particular way of speaking, like "G’day sport." If you hear someone speak to you that way you would assume that the person came from Australia.

Well that slightly quirky form of words, "Grace to you and peace" seems to be an indication from the earliest times of the way Christians have greeted each other. The Greek, as well as the Latin, translation keeps that same word order: "Grace to you and peace."

Even Martin Luther, one of the first translators of the Bible into the vernacular in modern times, kept that order of words, "Grace to you and peace." And in the King James Version, produced for the Church of England, your find the same: "Grace to you and peace." It’s the same in the Douay Bible, the Catholic version that was made in the 16th century: "Grace to you and peace." Then if you come up to more recent times, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, those two also have that form of the words, "Grace to you and peace."

So across 2,000 years, translators have thought it wise to preserve that distinctive pattern, the distinctive word order, that distinctively Christian greeting, "Grace to you and peace." ICEL is proposing that this word order continue to be used in the Christian assembly, 2,000 years on. It puts us in touch with a very early stratum of Christian tradition.

There are lots of other examples, too: e.g., "The Lord be with you. And with your spirit" (Galatians 6:18; 2 Timothy 4:22); "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:29); and "Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9).  [Notice that this all concerned the Ordinary of Mass.  He doesn’t talk about the Proper prayers.]

Q: How will the eventual changes be introduced? What consequences will this have for the Catholic in the pews? Will the new translation be problematic or helpful for the faithful?

Bishop Roche: The introduction of new texts is a matter for local bishops’ conferences. With good catechesis, on which work is already in progress, the new translation will help deepen the understanding and spirituality of everyone in the Church.

I believe that Catholics will welcome these next texts — they are fuller and very beautiful. Of course, anything new always takes a little getting used to, but Catholics are generous and I believe that the Catholic instinct for truth, depth, accuracy and nobility of language will dispose them to the beauty of these new texts.

It has not been uncommon for me to hear from those with whom I have shared the new texts, comments like: "But I had no idea that this is what the text was trying to say!" There is a great theological richness being uncovered in these translations which itself will be highly catechetical.

We have a saying: "lex orandi lex credendi." In other words, the way we pray is formative of our faith. The Roman Missal conveys the faith of the Church, carefully handed down to us century by century since earliest times. This is a treasure from which we shall be fed and nurtured each day and one that needs to be carefully handed on.

Q: It has been stated that the post-conciliar Roman breviary also has many translation problems. [It’s not a problem if you use the Latin.  I cannot stomach the ghastly English version.   But they probably had to do the Missal first, since there is a certain coordination between the Missal and Office.] How did these problems arise? Will a new version of the breviary be issued?

Bishop Roche: Like the missal, the breviary was translated in a hurry for the same understandable reasons. From what I can gather, there seems to have been little overall editorial control on the translations we have and therefore, there is an unevenness in the translation of the texts. A new version is most certainly needed, but until the Roman Missal is completed, it would be impossible to embark on such a project. It will be for the member conferences of ICEL and for the Holy See to consider what should then follow.

 

 

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37 Responses to Bp. Roche interviewed about the new liturgical translation

  1. Br. Luke says:

    Will there be a new translation of the Lectionary as well? Do the Bishops think that the Lectionary we have now conforms to the new norms for translating liturgical texts?

  2. Jim says:

    Will the new translation come to my parish during my lifetime?

  3. Charles R. Williams says:

    I hope when the LOH is retranslated the Latin hymns are included rather than the hodge-podge of more or less suitable English hymns now supplied.

  4. dcs says:

    “So, for example, the new English texts will show more clearly the relationship between the liturgical texts and their scriptural origins.”

    One can think of a couple of examples of this. The first that springs to mind is the old English translation of the Sanctus which says “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might” instead of “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord the God of Hosts,” which I believe is the translation adopted in the draft Missal and which is a better translation of the verses from Isaias. Another is the Domine non sum dignus, which was translated as “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” instead of “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” which is a clearer allusion to Matt. 8.

    I frankly do not believe that the problems with the 1970s translation are due to its being speedily translated. When you can just look at a translation and see that it is wrong, it’s obvious that haste was not the cause.

  5. Karen Russell says:

    “the translation had been done speedily in order to supply an English text, as quickly as possible, for the revised liturgy.”

  6. Karen Russell says:

    Oops–somehow that quote got entered without the rest of my message. Sorry!

    To continue:

    I own a copy of the “interim” version of the Liturgy of the Hours, issued for England and Canada (and other countries?) for use until the “official” translation became available.

    The translation, especially of the closing prayers, is strikingly richer and deeper than that of the “official” text, and, I’ve learned from comparing them with some of Fr. Z’s “WDTPRS?” columns, much closer to the original Latin sense.

    Consequently, I have great difficulty understanding how the dumbed-down prayers in current use can be attributed solely to “haste” in translation. Better translations existed BEFORE the ICEL version came out.

  7. FranzJosf says:

    Fr. Z: A question (referring to your observation about the propers).

    In the Agnus Dei and the collects, I prefer ‘who’ to ‘you’.

    Lamb of God, who takes . . .

    O God, who was pleased that . . .

    It is merely a preference of mine, are there further implications?

  8. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Will the new English translation retain “Mememorial Acclamation I” (Christ has died…) which appears nowhere in the official Latin Missal?

    (Please say no.)

  9. FranzJosf,

    I think Bishop Roche’s words answer your question: “Nor do they tell God who he is, they acknowledge his greatness and his power, his love and his compassion and generosity.” A prayer that reads “O God, you were pleased to do X” tells God who he is, what he has done; the prayer that reads “O God, who was pleased to do X” acknowledges God’s action in the midst of petition and glorification. That bodes well for the translation of the collects, which in the American English of the 1970 translation are terrible.

  10. James says:

    Following on from the comment by Karen. I have a copy of the interim altar missal used in England and Wales. The translation of the proper prayers is invariably richer and somewhat closer to both the Fr Z versions and – dare I say it – the Cranmer equivalents. Haste may be part of the story, but it’s not the whole of it.

  11. Christian says:

    A priest who was part of the process gave me a copy of the reposed missal to read through – there was no “Memorial Acclamation I”.

  12. Prof. Basto says:

    The prayers of the Roman rite do not order God around, they respectfully request and plead. Nor do they tell God who he is, they acknowledge his greatness and his power, his love and his compassion and generosity.

    YES!

  13. Maureen says:

    I think “haste” is being used as a replacement for “not thinking about it wisely or enough”. Which genearlly is a matter of haste, whether time passes in the doing or not. The Sixties’ mentality was a hasty one — we are the greatest generation ever, we know more than anybody else, and we don’t have to wait and see whether our initial ideas are going to work in the long run.

  14. Sid Cundiff says:

    The Divine Office badly needs retranslation if it is to have any effect on the spiritual life of English speaking people.

  15. FranzJosf says:

    Steve C: Yes, I noticed the Archbishop’s words on that topic, but I have seen what is purported to be the translation of the ordinary (supposedly under embargo), as it stands now.

    It still says, “Lamb of God, you . . . ”

    I haven’t seen the collects.

    Of course, the Latin says qui.

    It’s possible what I have seen is an earlier translation, but it was represented to me as the current translation in the bishops’ hands.

    But I remain curious as to Fr. Z’s take on changing ‘who’ to ‘you’, on seeing if Fr. Z sees any other ramifications beyond Abp. Roche’s remarks.

  16. Bernard says:

    “The Roman Missal conveys the faith of the Church, carefully handed down to us century by century, since earliest times. This is a treasure from which we shall be fed and nutured each day and one that needs to be handed on”.

    Amen.

  17. Pleased as Punch says:

    Two items:

    1) Fr. Z, isn’t the style for English bishops “Right Reverend” rather than “Most Reverend”?

    2) FranzJosf, I believe the most literal translation would be “you who take away…” As I recall,
    at least in the Agnus Dei, the Latin reads, “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.”
    “Who” is called for by the relative pronoun “qui,” and “you” by the 2nd person singular present
    indicative active “tollis.” “who takes…” is less literal because it makes the verb 3rd person
    singular in English (we don’t say, “you who takes”).

  18. Pleased: 1) Fr. Z, isn’t the style for English bishops “Right Reverend” rather than “Most Reverend”?

    I’m not English. Were I in the UK, however, and met with or spoke about a bishop there, I would gladly conform to the English manner of address.

  19. dcs says:

    Unless I am mistaken, “tollis” (as in “Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi”) is the second person singular, so there is a “you” or “thou” pronoun implicit in the Latin. So a more accurate rendering might be “Lamb of God, Thou Who takest [or You Who take] away the sins of the world.” So it is not simply a matter of changing “who” to “you” — it’s a matter of keeping “you” and dropping “who.”

  20. Cathy says:

    Is the translation of Scripture appearing now in New Mass missalettes what we have to look forward to? I have noticed differences that actually change the theology of passages. I don’t know whether the translation I was raised with was wrong or someone is injecting agenda into the Lectionary.

    For instance: Luke 20:34 used to read,

    “And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage…”

    The new translation says they “marry and remarry”.

    The former, in my mind, reflects the difference between men and women; men marry and women are given in marriage. The latter seems to be mainstreaming divorce. They can’t both be correct, can they?

    I have seen many such (seemingly) arbitrary changes in meaning as well as horrible changes in age-old English passages like the recent butchering of “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (I don’t have a missalette in front of me, so can’t give the new version.)

    Not to mention the purging of the word “man” (the English translation of God’s name for all of us) from the readings, and replacing it with “foggy” terms like “person”, “one”, etc.

    Now that Father Z. has done all the prayers, I pray he would consider taking on these new translations in the daily and Sunday readings.

  21. FranzJosf says:

    Steve C and Pleased: Thank you for your helpful clarifications!

  22. Pleased as Punch says:

    Fr. Z: *I’m not English. Were I in the UK, however, and met with or* *spoke about a bishop there, I would gladly conform to the English* *manner of address.*

    Indeed, Father, but not being English hasn’t stopped you from speaking of an English bishop or two as “His Lordship.” ;-)

  23. Cacciaguida says:

    The terms “formal equivalence” and “dynamic equivalence” are outmoded these days. They have been abandoned by their originator, Eugene Nida, who considered that his theories had been misunderstood and abused.

    ‘Scuse me?

    “The terms ‘up’ and ‘down’ are outmoded these days. They have been abandoned by their originator, Heidi Moskowitz of East 4th St., who considered that her theories had been misunderstood and abused….”

  24. Cacciaguida says:

    Sorry — I just remembered that not everyone here understands Jewish or Jewish-convert sarcasm, so let me explain.

    What I mean is: formal and dynamic equivalence are useful enough concepts that they WILL continue to be used, and it really doesn’t matter if one Eugene Nida, whoever he may be, doesn’t like it.

    Sorry for any confusion.

  25. Different says:

    Cathy,

    What missalette do you use that contains this translation???

    I believe the Lectionary will be revised as well since it is part of the Missal.

  26. Isaac says:

    Dear Fr. Z,

    I am well aware the most of the bloggers of wdtprs are from the USA. However, when comparing texts to their Latin originals (so far), we’ve focused solely on ICEL versions for the new Missal and the Breviary.

    Would it not help if we could also look into the British version of the Breviary (which is different, and in my opinion sounds closer to the Latin originals) as a matter of interest, considering that we are all apparently speaking “English” (ought to be the same one, I reckon).
    Also, the “Commonwealth” version is used in more countries in the world; Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore, Uganda. It seems to me that we’re forgetting also that perhaps the ‘Brits’ got it right where ICEL clearly didn’t.

    Just as a matter of comparison for the Collects which should sound the same let’s say for the Thirty Second Sunday of the Year:

    ICEL reads:

    God of power and mercy,
    protect us from all harm.
    Give us freedom of spirit
    and health in mind and body
    to do your work on earth.

    We ask this…

    The British version reads:

    Defend us, Lord, against every distress
    so that unencumbered in body and soul,
    we may devote ourselves to your service in freedom and joy.

    We make our prayer…

    Hmmmm… Which instantaneously sounds more precise, even if it wasn’t terribly more accurate?

    Regards,
    Isaac

  27. Greg Smisek says:

    ICEL has nothing to do with the translations of the Lectionary. The bishops’ conferences themselves were and are responsible for the vernacular Lectionary texts.

  28. Greg Smisek says:

    Will the new English translation retain “Memorial Acclamation I” (Christ has died…) which appears nowhere in the official Latin Missal?

    Yes, if the Holy See goes along with it.

    The U.S. bishops discussed this at their June 2005 meeting (covered by Adoremus). Since even Bishop Trautman (head of the committee on the liturgy) admitted that this English text was an independent composition and not a translation (although he appears to have gotten the details of its provenance wrong), the question was whether the U.S. bishops ought to keep this now-familiar text in addition to an actual, faithful translation of the Latin memorial acclamation Mortem tuam. This could be done as an adaptation (think “inculturation”) of the Roman Missal for the U.S. Perhaps surprisingly, Bishop Trautman said that the committee was against keeping it, but his reasoning was so incoherent that it had the effect of galvanizing opinion in favor of the “pastoral” option of keeping the old favorite, which is so well known and loved by millions of Catholics and has inspired such heights of musical greatness.

    Thus at the 2006 meeting, this adaptation (keeping “Christ has died…” in addition to a faithful translation of each of the Latin memorial acclamations) was approved by the bishops without further discussion. (See Adoremus articles before and after.)

    I haven’t heard whether this adaptation has received the recognitio of the Holy See yet. We could always hope that the CDWDS refuses this adaptation.

    I wonder whether “Dying you destroyed our death…” (currently the second English acclamation) was accepted as a U.S. adaptation or if they sneaked it into the ICEL translation itself. It doesn’t exist in the Latin text, although it is at least partially derived from the sentence, Qui mortem nostram moriéndo destrúxit, et vitam resurgéndo reparávit. which is found in both older and newer forms of the Paschal Preface.

    I think Bishop Roche addresses rather handily the oft-expressed angst of Bishop Trautman and various other bishops over the shocking discontinuity they will be subjecting the People of God to by introducing all these new–and don’t forget really hard–translations:

    ICEL is proposing that this [biblical] word order continue to be used in the Christian assembly, 2,000 years on. It puts us in touch with a very early stratum of Christian tradition.

    While the majority of the texts of the Missal (excluding the Lectionary) are not two millennia old, most belong to strata of tradition significantly older than a few decades.

  29. Patrick says:

    dcs-

    “Qui tollis” would literally be translated “(you) who take away,” however, unless I am mistaken, correct English grammar places relative clauses in the third person (Latin places them in the person to which they relate, in this case second). This would be translated “Who takes away”

    Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
    or

    Almighty and eternal God, who has ….(not have)

    On to the Liturgy of the Hours…I pray that they bring us a suitable translation so that we can pray the Office with the faithful without cringing at the inaccurate translations. The only reason for the Office to be in vernacular is to celebrate with the Faithful — otherwise, we clerics should be praying in Latin.

  30. Bernard says:

    “Sometimes it’s a secret sign, maybe a handshake or a wink.”

    Or a rolled-up trouser leg, eh Bish?

  31. dcs says:

    Patrick writes:
    Almighty and eternal God, who has ….(not have)

    Our Father Who art in heaven (not “Who is in heaven”). So while “Lamb of God Who takest away the sins of the world” (which I am not recommending, by the way; I would recommend rather “Lamb of God, Thou Who takest”) might sound a bit awkward by modern standards, it is not without precedent.

  32. Mary says:

    Patrick — in correct English grammar, the relative pronoun takes its person and number from its antecedent, its case from its function in its own clause. Sounds odd, because how often does a relative clause in any but the third person (except in prayers?) come up?

  33. Cathy says:

    Different,

    Our parishes use the “Pray Together” missalettes published by Sunday Missal Service; IMPRIMATUR George Lucas, Bishop of Springfield.

    I looked under the copyright for where the readings come from but it doesn’t say, although it gives copyright for all the prayers and introductions. (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, ICEL, USCCB) The missalette readings match those in the Lectionary.

    I checked the USCCB site and they have the same translation with “marry and remarry”.

    [Sometimes I wonder if there is some rouge feminist copyist changing words as items go to publication.]

    Another example I remember is Mark 9;36 “And [Jesus] took a child, and put him in the midst of them.” The New Lectionary replaces “him” with “it”, (I suppose in an attempt to avoid the male pronoun.) Pro-lifers are particularly upset over this scandal but it remains.

    At one point I thought of keeping a list, but I have mostly given up on the New Liturgy. I have ceased to believe it can be reformed. It seems every time something is fixed, two more things are broken.

  34. Bernard says:

    Cathy, your last paragraph; the most sensible comment I’ve heard so far.

  35. danphunter1 says:

    Sid,
    I have the Angelus press shorter Divine Office, shorter in that it only includes Prime Sext and Compline mon-sat, But it has Lauds I and II and Vespers for Sunday.
    Other than that it is the same as a breviary that I have seen from 1935.
    I find it very easy to understand and I only speak English.
    Go check it out at the Angelus Press website.
    It only costs 30.00 US dollars.
    God bless you, Sid.
    PS. how are your workouts going.

  36. Matt Q says:

    It seems they complicate things more than they have to. This group, this committee, this conference, then the local whatevers. Geez. Be done with it. Translating Latin into English really isn’t that difficult. For the most part, I hope there is no agenda involved. ( Like hoping doing drugs isn’t bad for your health? ) Anything V2 nowadays, one really has to be suspicious. Quite disappointing in reference to the Church, but one needs to look at things this way, as there is an agenda afoot and one needs to tread carefully.

    In regards to the Lectionary, just use the Douay-Rheims Bible. Done. No countless hours, no thousands of dollars spent by these committees dithering over English equivalents of Qui, Quae or Quod? ( My sarcasm. ) The Douay-Rheims is the best and has catechized countless Faithful down through the ages. What’s the problem? Again, agenda.

  37. Matt Q: Be done with it. Translating Latin into English really isn’t that difficult.

    I sense that you don’t quite get it. These days, the Latin is not the original language of composition. The text is rendered (from Polish or German) into Italian and then all the language versions are based on the Italian. Really. The Latin is a translation, though it will go into the books as the official version.

    Therefore, the problem is NOT one of rendering a Latin text into English. The English is also translated from the Italian. Still, what the Latin says is of supreme importance once the document is promulgated because the Latin becomes the official text.