Benedict XVI explains to German bishops what the “pro multis” really says.

The Holy Father has explained to the bishops of German-speaking countries what the prayer really says.

Just as the document Liturgiam authenticam required a revision the English liturgical texts, all the different languages need revision, including German.  You may recall that the Holy Father, not the Congregations for Divine Worship or of the Doctrine of the Faith, is the only one who can approve translations of sacramental forms.  Years ago Pope Benedict instructed the CDW to instructed the bishops conferences preparing new translations that the words pro multis in the form for the consecration of the Precious Blood, were to adhere to the Latin and were to be some form of “for many” and not “for all”.  The reason for the Holy Father’s decision was complicated, but in essence it comes down to the fact that, regardless of the Scriptural origins of the consecratory form, the Latin liturgical texts constitute their own theological source and they must be respected as such.

The German bishops and others beyond the Alps have been staging a nutty about the pro multis issue, insisting that they should leave the German as “für alle” and not change it to “für viele”.

It seems that the German theologian Pope, who cannot be fooled when it comes either to German or theology, has explained the situation to the German-speaking bishops.

The German Bishops Conference website has posted the Pope’s 14 April letter of almost 200o words.

I don’t have the time or energy to translate it for you at the moment, but in short Pope Benedict explains that the bishops do, in fact, have to use “for many” and they have to engage in catechesis.  He adds personal observations about the difficulty of having to say Mass in different languages and the dissonance there can be between the translations.  He also heads off the common questions and objections raised by those who want to stick to “for all”.

Once again the Holy Father has offered good reflections on what the prayer really says.  I am sure the text of the letter will soon be available in English.

It is nice to be on the same page as Pope Benedict.

Please pray for the Holy Father!



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  1. Of course, if the bishops don’t like the new translation, they could always just stick to the Latin. Would that we had done that in the first place.

  2. I would suggest in all seriousness that the “für alle” problem is reason #819 that Latin should be mandated at least for the consecration at all Masses.

  3. Andrew says:

    Recte ergo factum est ut “pro universis” non diceretur, cum hoc loco tantummodo de fructibus passionis sermo esset, quae salutis fructum delectis solum attulit. Atque huc spectant verba illa Apostoli: “Christus semel oblatus est ad multorum exhaurienda peccata”; et quod Dominus apud Ioannem inquit: “Ego pro eis rogo; non pro mundo rogo, sed pro his quos dedisti mihi, quia tui sunt.” (Catechismus Romanus, de Sacramentis, Eucharistia).

  4. Legisperitus says:

    Liturgical texts as a theological source… yes! How often do we consider the fact that the consecration in the Mass has been handed down from the beginning of the Church, and is therefore older than any of the texts in the New Testament? There we see a concrete example of how Sacred Tradition is just as important as Sacred Scripture.

  5. q7swallows says:

    Y E S!!!

  6. Pope Benedict XVI 1, German Bishops Conference 0…just get it right…though I’m in agreement, consecration should always be in Latin.

  7. smmclaug says:

    “Of course, if the bishops don’t like the new translation, they could always just stick to the Latin. Would that we had done that in the first place.”

    Well said.

    The reasons for a universal liturgical language were always rather obvious and unanswerable. I daresay the reasons for its abandonment are just as obvious.

  8. Prof. Lu says:

    You’d think the Germans would have had enough of ‘alle[s]’ after the unpleasantries 20th century…

  9. digdigby says:

    Actually, a key word illicitly shifted can skew the entire spiritual life of a person. All that fuss over ‘filioque’? I understand it now. I love the Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky on many subjects but when he described the the Son and the Holy Spirit as acting in the world like the ‘two hands of God the Father’ my pinball machine ‘Tilt’ sign came on. My Catholic gut said…..uh, NO.

  10. Laura98 says:

    I dunno… the Germans get awfully set in their ways. Being married to one and having lived over there for five years, I can tell you it is always an adventure trying to get them to try to change or try something new. “Alles muss in Ordnung sein” (Everything must be in order) should be their national motto – though it also implies things should NOT change.

  11. asperges says:

    Google Translate – I don’t speak German – came up with just enough to follow all this but included such classics as: “Following these insights on the worship of the congregation adopted 28/03/2001 translator instruction Liturgiam has Authenticam again the principle of literal equivalent to the fore, of course, without imposing a one-literalism. ” The software has a little way to go yet!

    Why can’t the Bishops just do as they are told? Worldwide in the last 40 years so many (agreed, not all) have badly let down the Faithful , either by incompetence, bad teaching or total lack of leadership. Look at the state of the Church in Austria or France as examples. It seems the German hierarchy are not much better.

  12. ContraMundum says:


    No, that’s not a problem with Google Translate. That’s how liturgical documents really sound.

  13. ContraMundum says:

    I couldn’t resist asking Google what the prayer

    Semper exsultet populus tuus, Deus, renovata animae iuventute, ut, qui nunc laetatur in adoptionis se gloriam restitutum, resurrectionis diem spe certae gratulationis exspectet.

    really says:

    Always let your people, O God, the souls of renewed youth, that we, who was restored to them glory of adoption of pleasure in the now, the hope of the resurrection of the day, look for a certain joy.

  14. pseudomodo says:

    Strengthening the Brethren…

  15. Geoffrey says:

    I wish my pastor would hear of this, as he continues to say “for all”.

  16. Dad of Six says:

    Seen on a bumper sticker: You can always tell a German, but you can’t tell him much!

    And yes, it’s true…just ask my wife.

  17. ???? ?????? [ ??????? ] = pro multis as we see in Matthew 26,28; Mark 14,24, and even Isaiah regarding the Suffering Servant.

    Is there some sort of difference I’m not seeing with the liturgical pro multis?

    I’m guessing if there’s a contrast mentioned between the Divine Scriptures and the Sacred Liturgy, the reference is not to pro multis, but to the rest of the formula for the consecrations.

  18. Sorry about that. The Greek and Hebrew work in the editing box but not in posted comments. Anyway…

    The “peri pollon” and “rabbim” are exactly the meaning of “pro multis”…

  19. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Oh oh. It would appear that Germans are once again having a problem with Hebrew.

  20. Gus Barbarigo says:

    @ Prof. Lu – Yes, that is what I thought, too, “Deutschland ueber alles…” Supposedly that was going to be transublimated into soccer/fussball!

  21. AnnAsher says:

    Well many of our problems floated down the Rhine so it’s no surprise they want to cling to the incorrect progressive Protestant verbiage.

  22. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley

    I aplogize that my comment does not apply to the article in question, but I have come across a paragraph that is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever read, and I want to disseminate it over the Internet.
    Human Person and the Tabernacle
    Paragraph from page 344 of Volume 1 of The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church by Father Juan Arintero, O.P.
    “One day, at the time of Communion, Blessed Mariana of Jesus, the Lily of Madrid, being unusually aware of her lowliness and unworthiness, said to her Lord: “My Lord, the tabernacle in which Thou art is much more clean and beautiful.” Christ answered her: “But it cannot love me.” “From this,” said the holy nun, I understood how much more Christ prefers to reside in our souls than in gold or silver or precious jewels which are inanimate creatures incapable of love.”

  23. Ambrose Jnr says:

    It seems to me that there is real hope in the mid-term for the catholic church in German…new bishops such as Rainer Woelki or Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst would be completely in favour of ‘pro multis’ and ‘fur viele’…we just need to wait for the biological solution to run its course in Germany…this solution is not at the same stage yet as it is in the U.S.

  24. Eurominuteman says:

    Jesus never spoke Latin, most likely Aramaic… [And you know this because of a special revelation?]

    [It is not uncommon that even the very young learn something of the language of an occupying military force. I suspect that the Lord was pretty smart and had a good ear for the spoken “word”.]

  25. NoraLee9 says:

    I attended a funeral Mass in Long Island this weekend. The priests mentioned here are regular, diocesan priests. At the wake, Father wore a cassock and led the rosary. (!) After the afternoon session of the wake, Father made it absolutely clear that NO ONE was to take Communion without having been to Confession. He then said that he was going into the office and would hear confessions. “This is a good time for some of you who might not have been attending church, or who have not availed themselves of the sacraments in a while. I won’t be able to yell at you, because if I did, your friends would hear and they might run in to give you assistance…,” He got a big laugh and then he got a long line.

    At the funeral, the kyrie was in Greek, the Sanctus and Agnus were in Latin. When Father said “and for many,” at the consecration, this old Traditionalist almost fell off of her seat.

    At the cemetery in Brooklyn, the priest also wore a cassock, and recited all the usual prayers for the dead. At no time during the entire affair, from Wake to Interment, was the deceased Canonized. At graveside we hear from the Maccabees….

    I met with Monsignor Hmmm at the parish in which I am geographically located. He came in the office in street clothes. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss starting an EF at the church. While I was waiting, I overheard the secretary pleading with a mother to accept that fact that the Deacon, not the priest, was going to Baptize her baby. It seems that she scheduled the Baptism on the wrong weekend and the priests and the deacons switch off.
    I won’t bore you with the details, but Father asked my why I like that old relic and couldn’t understand why I would want to pray silently, following along in the book…. He also told me that he has none of the accoutrements for the Mass, since after the GREAT WONDERFUL COUNCIL, the candles and candlesticks were all thrown out. (Who throws out solid gold candlestick holders)?
    I ended the meeting by informing him that virtually everyone who attends Mass with me is 20 years younger, that our main problem is that every time we train new servers, they get a vocation and off they go! I told him that Tradition is the wave of the future and that the youth are grasping the Catholic identity and saving their souls, and preaching the gospel through it to others….

    Thank you, Holiness. Thank you for helping to straighten out “the mess.”

  26. Mark from Northern England says:

    @ digdigby – Lossky’s reference to the Son and the Spirit as the “two hands” of God comes from St Irenaeus of Lyons.

  27. Incaelo says:

    For those interested, I managed to whip up an English translation of the letter, which you can find on my blog here:

    For anyone living in a country that has yet to enjoy the introduction of the new translation the “for all”/”for many” arguments are still in the future. The reasoning behind either choice is actually rather interesting and worth a read.

    I have to say that I don’t read or speak German very well, but I managed to get a long way with the use of an online translator and because of the fact that my native language is closely related to German. The translation will not be perfect, and I am bound to have missed some nuances. But all the same, I hope my translation is useful to some.

  28. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    If someone translated “pro multis” as “for all” on my Latin exam, I’d mark it wrong. I’m just saying. I’d rather see “for the multitudes” than “for all”, but, whatever, we use what Rome approved.

  29. Dr. Edward Peters: I’d rather see “for the multitudes” than “for all”

    How about simply “pro multis”?

  30. robtbrown says:

    Eurominuteman says:

    Jesus never spoke Latin, most likely Aramaic…

    1. No doubt he spoke Aramaic informally. Hebrew, however, would have been used in celebrating Jewish feasts (e.g., Passover).

    The NT is explicit that He spoke with a centurion, who would not have known Aramaic and perhaps only Latin. This indicates at the very least a knowledge of Hebrew and likely of Latin.

    2. The question at hand is whether pro multis (for the many) is an accurate translation of the NT phrase (???? ??????), which it is.

  31. robtbrown says:

    NB: ???? ??????? appears as Greek in the preview.

  32. ContraMundum says:

    How about (somewhat redundantly) “for the hoi polloi”? Even the connotation that has taken on would be salutary. We have far too great a tendency to think of ourselves as special, important people — that it isn’t that surprising that God arranged for our redemption given the marvelous gifts we bring into the Church.

  33. oldcanon2257 says:


    Unicode doesn’t work with the comments here on Fr. Z’s blog. I tried it in the past. It would preview OK, then the actual posted comment would show ??? instead.

  34. dspecht says:

    Benedict XVI explains to German bishops what the “pro multis” really says.

    No, sorry, but he does not.

    As a commenter (R. John) on Rorate Caeli just said: The pope’s explanation only confused what the Catechism makes perfectly clear.

    And even worse, he does not only confuse it, but gives NOT at all the reason the Catechism Romanus gives (cf. quote of the Cat. above by Andrew).
    The Pope does not even mention this high-level magisterial text and his explanation.

    The Catechismus Romanus clearly says that the expression “pro multis” is appropriate for the Mass because NOT all men will be saved, will get the fruits of salvation. The Mass is the place where the fruits of the redemption are at stake, not the redemption in its objective, universal aspect.

    But the Pope did NOT teach this. He gave a totally different explanation – and omitted and/or confused the teaching of the Cat. Romanus. So he did not teach what the words really mean, and for contrary, he suggested a very differnt reason for introducing the misstranslation than it really was as well as for the real meaning of the words as they should be/are!

  35. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Fr. Z, yes, indeed. Latin anytime. Then we don’t have to worry about all sorts of problems. :)

  36. CatholicPhilosopher says:

    I have translated the text of the letter. It is certainly an interesting read. I wonder how long the German bishops will take to follow the Pope’s guidelines…

  37. Pingback: It pays to be literal | Catholic Canada

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