Did John Paul II write “pro omnibus”?

I learned about something at The Undercroft, stemming from something else at Valle Adurni something rather serious. I am obliged to add additional information to put things straight.

Some folks have incorrectly speculated that the late Pope John Paul II, in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, wrote "pro omnibus" instead of "pro multis".

I have been hammering at this issue harder than anyone else for the last six years, so I can provide some information that will clear this whole thing up. I wrote about it at length in the WDTPRS series. Here is one thing:

The Latin text of the Holy Father’s encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (EdE) became a battlefield in the pro multis wars being waged in the halls of the Holy See. You might remember what happened.

In that encyclical the late Pope referred to the words of "institution" (that’s "consecration" for me and you). He used, in the English, “for all” rather than “for many.” This also appeared in the unofficial Latin of the encyclical at the time of its release. "ARRRGGH", quoth I. Then I got down to work to figure out what had happened.

In my WDTPRS columns I went through all the Scripture and showed also that, probably in their haste, the people in charge of the release of the encyclical had made mistakes in the Biblical citations. “Mt 14:24” should have been either Matthew 26:28 or Mark 14:24.

Can you believe that? That shot red flags up the pole for me, I can tell you. Something was very very fishy about this whole thing.

If that wasn’t bad enought, the Latin version of the Encyclical, at the time of its first release said: “qui pro vobis funditur et pro omnibus in remissionem peccatorum” which changed the words of Scripture and thus the Mass formula!

Mind you, the citation was clearly a paraphrase of the account and not a direct quote: it was cited with a confer (“cf.” or “cfr”) reference, so they have an out. However, that was in fact, in black on white, the text at the time of the public release of Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

But wait, there’s more. The certified text of any papal document is always promulgated in the official monthly publication of the Holy See called Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS). Very often, after big documents come out with a great bang and splash, some months later the real text is issued, and it is different ­- and no one knows it because no one reads the Latin anymore.

When you look now at the official AAS text of the EdE 2 wherein the Pope supposedly changed pro multis to pro omnibus we find that a correction has been made (cf. AAS 95 – 7 July 2003 – p. 434). The pro multis is back in its proper place, the errant Scripture citations are cleaned up, and the bad pro omnibus is not to be found.

Someone, God bless him, put the smack down on pro omnibus in EdE 2.

A Polish colleague of mine verifies that on the Vatican’s website, the Polish version of EdE says “za wielu…for many” in the controverted spot.

Draw your conclusions as you will, someone, if not Pope John Paul himself (or a future Pope), had the clout to get this changed. Since this was clearly a DOCTRINAL issue, I wonder who else could have been involved. Hmmmmm…..

My spies told me back then that a couple heads rolled for this little bit of Scriptural and liturgical hijinx.

Now it seems that on the Vatican’s website, in the archived documents of John Paul II, the link for the Latin version of Ecclesia de Eucharistia has been killed. Look for yourself:

The funny thing about this is that the Latin was there once.  Here is what I wrote in a WDTPRS column back in 2003:

Last week I wrote in reference to the Holy Father’s new encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (EdE) that “the Holy See’s website inexplicably did not provide the Latin text, but only the English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish).” I am happy to report that the Latin text has been added and is now available online.

Interesting, no?  I also wrote back then… O my prophetic soul….

Now, before any traditional Catholics freak out completely and accuse the Pope of “changing Scripture” (mark my word some will do exactly that), please note that the citations are in the form of a “confer” abbreviated as “cf.” or (in Latin) “cfr”, which mean that the reader is to “bring together for comparison” the referenced texts.  “Cf.” does not indicate an exact quotation.  What the Pope did in EdE is offer a paraphrase, not an exact quotation.

Keep firmly in mind that the version in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis is the ONLY OFFICIAL VERSION of the document. The website does not provide official versions. The language versions at the time of the original release of the document to the world are not the official versions. All the vernacular language versions that came out, were issue before the text appeared in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. You would think that the vernacular versions would be double-checked and revised and even republished after the release of the official text, right? But Noooooooo……

The problem is, who goes to actually look at the Latin in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and, if they do, how many can read it?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dom Benedictine says:

    Dear Father,
    Do you suppose that this has some connection to questions of translations/translators that arose early in Pope Benedict’s pontificate? Have translators been trying to shape (read warp) the popes’ messages?

  2. flabellum says:

    Perhaps they will eventually get around to publishing AAS on-line! too many people think that because something is published on the Vatican website it provides a definitive reference. Do you happen to know the origin of the translated versions of the Decrees of Vatican II now provided on the Vatican website?

  3. David says:

    Wasn’t there a problem with the translation of Deus Caritas Est last year?

  4. There are LOTS of problems with the translations, friends. I have to say that the translation issue is getting worse and worse.

    Perhaps that could be a collaborative project of this blog: look at important paragraphs from current documents and addresses and check the translations against original.

  5. moretben says:

    Thanks for this, Father. I will post a link to this post at The Undercroft.

  6. Thanks also; this is helpful, and very reassuring to know that AAS have corrected it. But how does one consult AAS easily? It certainly should be put on line.

  7. Pastor in Valle: That is a very good point, really. We need more Latin friends.

  8. Marcin says:

    Did the late Pope write it originally in Polish or English? My guess is Polish, and therefore I can hardly imagine that he would not have used “za wielu” (/pro multis/) in this (Eucharistic) context. As a Polish bishop he had used _this_ form in Polish innumerous times, just as I have been and still am fortunate to hear it in that language. We Poles have been blessed with quite accurate translation, although many complain that it’s not particularly _high_ form of the language.
    In any instance, nobody there managed to substitute /Exsultet/ with some “Joyfull Light” or whatever it is here in the US.

    Z Bogiem,

  9. Gregory Mercer says:


    You said:

    “Now it seems that on the Vatican’s website, in the archived documents of John Paul II, the link for the Latin version of Ecclesia de Eucharistia has been killed. Look for yourself:…”

    Well, I did. and here is what I found:

    “Deinde calicem in manus vini sustulit eisque dixit: “Accipite et bibite omnes: hic calix novum aeternumque testamentum est in sanguine meo, qui pro vobis funditur et pro omnibus in remissionem peccatorum” (cfr Mc 14, 24; Lc 22, 20; 1 Cor 11, 25).”

    Here is the link:


  10. Gregory Mercer says:

    By the way, now we’ll never really know what the Polish Pope really meant or wrote, will we?

  11. Geoffrey says:

    Copies of the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis” can be purchased at http://www.paxbook.com. “Acta Apostolicae Sedis 2000 (Commentarium Officiale)” can be purchased for over $100 USD. Too bad they can’t put them online. Perhaps one day…

  12. ioannes says:

    The wording in the Spanish docuemnt says “for all” ( “por todos” los hombres para el perdón de los pecados). It’s always bothered me to see “para el perdón de los pecados” as well, since the latin “remissionem” is better translated into Spanish as “remisión” into Spanish, nothing fancy about it – and a more faithful translation.

  13. Pingback: Vigilate et Orate :: Ecclesia de Eucharistia missbraucht? :: November :: 2006

  14. Andrew says:

    I was also troubled by the website version and the “pro omnibus”. But some time later, when the Acta Apostolicae Sedis arrived in the mail, I quickly checked the relevant passage and almost jumped to the ceiling as I was reading “PRO MULTIS” in the official version.

    Either it was an honest mistake or “quidam imitantur daemones, quibus maxima est fallendi cupiditas.”

  15. Argent says:

    I use the Recent Comments to get a sense of what the “hot topic” is for the day.

    I use both IE and Firefox. With IE, when my window is resized, the text editor box runs off the edge and doesn’t word-wrap. And since there isn’t a preview feature, it’s sort of like taking a leap of faith. I used to have to type my text on Notepad then paste here. That’s why I switched to Firefox which has no problems.

    One thing if I may humbly suggest, is to add padding around your images for the text to wrap…5 pixels is a good minimum. And is it possible to add a “preview” feature? (Not complaining or anything)

    Thanks for all that you do here. I have to have my daily Z’s for a profitable (or prophetable) day.

    Happy Thanksgiving. Hope your duck was scrumptious.

  16. Argent says:

    Oops, I posted in the wrong topic. Sorry, I meant to post in the “Question for Users” thread. Too many tabs open.

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