Fr. Lombardi on the Holy Father’s Letter about “pro multis”

I posted about the absence (and then the presence) of the Holy Father’s Letter to German bishops on the site.  HERE.

Here is the editorial of the papal spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, on the site of Vatican Radio (of which he is also the director).  See if you can spot an “important” word, repeated.  My emphases and comments:

Lombardi editorial: For you and for many

“For you and for many”

What did the Pope do while he was in Castel Gandolfo during the week after Easter? He put pen to paper and, writing in his native language, [NB] composed a very important letter which he addressed to the German bishops. [Very important… but still only available in German on the site.] The letter, which was released a few days later, refers to the way in which the words of the Consecration of the chalice of the Lord’s sacred Blood are translated during the Mass. He favours the translation of the phrase “for many” – which is more faithful to the Biblical text – to the translation “for all,” a modification of the Biblical translation which was intended to clarify the universality of the salvation which was brought about by Christ.

Some will say that this distinction can only be appreciated by specialists. [“But Father! But Father!”, you are saying even as you read, “That’s not true!”] However, understanding this distinction helps to clarify what the Pope considers to be truly important, and the spiritual point of view from which he approaches it. The words which are used for the institution of the Eucharist are fundamentally important for Pope Benedict, because these words lie at the heart of the Church. By saying “for many,” Jesus is saying that he is the Servant of Yahweh who was foretold by the prophet Isaiah. When we say “for many,” therefore, we both express our fidelity to the word of Jesus, and recognize Jesus’ fidelity to the words of the Scripture. There is no doubt that Jesus died so that everyone might be saved. This, along with the profound significance of the words that are used for the institution of the Eucharist, should be explained to the faithful through the use of solid catechesis.

When the Lord offers himself “for you and for many,” we become directly involved and, in gratitude, we take on the responsibility for the salvation which is promised to everyone. [Nicely put.] The Holy Father – who has already touched upon this in his book about Jesus – is providing here profound and insightful catechesis about some of the most important words in the Christian Faith. The Pope concludes by saying that, in this Year of Faith, we must proceed with love and respect for the Word of God, reflecting on its profound theological and spiritual significance so that we might experience the Eucharist with greater depth. We hope to do so indeed.

The Letter is still available only in German on the site, while the editorial of Fr. Lombardi is available in many languages…including Chinese and Hungarian.

Of course certain people will cling to their notion that the words of the Lord at the Last Supper, which are a matter of conjecture, really meant “for all”, not “for many”.  They will say that the “πολλοί” of  “peri ton pollon… on behalf of the many”, means something that it has never meant in the history of Greek and that St. Jerome didn’t know what he was talking about when he translated from the original languages into Latin and that the Church was wrong to use the Latin as a theological source of its own since the Church’s earliest use of Latin in liturgical worship.

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  1. marcpuckett says:

    I’d point out that on the English language widget that the Vatican has produced (for people e.g. to put on their blogs) has had the text of a link to the Holy Father’s letter for 24 hours now, more or less. Still no actual hyperlink, though.

  2. Random Friar says:

    Those shifty Magyars, infiltrating even the highest echelons of the Church, bending everything to themselves!

  3. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Allow me to publicize an important (there’s that word again) essay (a short book, really) on the subject: “Shed for Many: An Accurate Rendering of the Pro multis in the Formula of Consecration,” written by Fr. (and Dr.) Manfred Hauke and published in Antiphon 14:2 (2010) 169-229. It originally appeared in German as “«Für viele vergossen.» Studie zur sinngetreuen Wiedergabe des pro multis in den Wandlungsworten” (Augsburg, 2008). This study, by the way, carries a Foreword by Archbishop (now Cardinal) Malcolm Ranjith, then Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship; the foreword appears in the same issue of Antiphon. Back issues of Antiphon are available for $7 each; write: Antiphon Subscriptions/Back Issues, P.O. Box 10, New Hope, KY 40052.

  4. asperges says:

    The Maronite liturgy insists on the words of consecration being in the original Syriac. The people know and expect this and, despite some (sometimes questionable) reforms to their liturgy in recent years, this one point never changes.

    Perhaps the time has now come to apply this to our Latin Rite Masses: From “Qui pridie” up to and including the “Mysterium fidei” and its response, let the words always in Latin in every country at every Mass. It would not only safeguard the most important words of the Mass but would also reintroduce the concept of universality and continuity which in many parish Masses is still far from evident.

    I still find it mind-blowing that the Pope has to haggle with a nation’s hierarchy to use the correct words at the consecration.

  5. discerningguy says:

    I, too, think that at least the words of consecration should be in Latin always and everywhere.

  6. mpolo says:

    For those of us who have to celebrate the Mass regularly in German, am I correct in thinking that this changes nothing? We still have to wait for our Bishops to appoint a committee to set up a commission to decide upon a pastoral plan for the timely application of this letter, right? I am assuming that I can’t just go changing this in my own Mass before it has been officially recognized…

  7. Fr.WTC says:

    Father, why not just use the Latin text for the. Words of institution. One may always use Latin in the Mass. And what a nice way to communicate to the bishops–FIX THIS! [Great idea! Why not?]

  8. Tominellay says:

    …they need Benedict’s letter in Croatian…the Old Slavonic liturgical texts translated to “for many”, but the current Croatian texts translate to “for all”. I hope to see a correction…

  9. rcg says:

    This seems very important to this layman. It is an automatic discriminator that indicates exactly what Fr. Lombardi said passively in his last paragraph: some people won’t make it. We have a big hurdle understanding that we can’t sin at an unrestricted pace up to the precipice then accept Christ on our death bed as a plan of salvation. It is also tough to understand that many we love will simply reject the grace of salvation. That is really tough. It is also pretty unpopular among the non-Catholic and anti-Catholic world. I think the Germans are understandably sensitive to fascist interpretations of this concept and flee too far the other direction. Perhaps they are finding it tough to break ties with old friends.

  10. robtbrown says:

    The use of “for all” boggles the mind. Its only justification is the what-the-author-really-meant hermeneutic. When the author used the Greek phrase, what was really meant was something found in Aramaic that carries a different meaning. Behind this is the ideology intended to reduce Jesus to a simple Palestinian, who was never touched by Hellenism.

    This same hermeneutic is often applied to VatII. When Sacrosanctum Concilium said that clerics should say the Office in Latin, it really meant they should all say it in the vernacular.

  11. Tom Piatak says:

    A very nice explanation of the Holy Father’s letter by Fr. Lombardi.

  12. Bea says:

    we take on the responsibility for the salvation which is promised to everyone.
    unquote (first sentence in last paragraph)

    PROMISED???… to everyone. OFFERED to everyone, perhaps.
    But: This “offer” is taken up by MANY but certainly not taken up by ALL. It’s as plain as the nose on one’s face

  13. Bea says:


    This also bring to mind the proclamation of the angels to the shepherds and how THAT has been changed:
    NOW they say “Peace on Earth, good will to men”
    The original THEN “and on Earth peace among men of good will” Luke 2:14

    Can peace/good-will come to men who are NOT of good will?

    WHY, WHY, WHY??? Must God’s Word be changed to suit man’s will, agenda or political correctness? Weren’t we warned not to “add, change or delete” His Word?

  14. ARKloster says:

    There are two controversies here. One is the soteriological controversy, which is, in my estimation, secondary. The second controversy is the sacramental one: who has authority to manage / change / safeguard liturgical norms? And this seems to be of primary importance here.

    So again, as ever, heterodoxy reduces to insubordination.

    On the soteriological controversy, however, isn’t it the case that we are on safe territory to HOPE for universal salvation? This is the line that Balthasar took, and he is beloved by the Holy Father.

  15. dspecht says:

    But again here like in the letter itselfe we learn that for many is only a concretisation and no limitation/restriction.

    But the Cat. Romanus tells us sth. different (as commented before, cf. also there): In deed “many” is a restriction to those that effectively are safed because in the Mass this aspect must be considerd, and not the universal offer of salvation. Only the “for you” is a concretisation.

    That the “many” is meant as a restricition is apparently beeing defrauded.

    Yes, ARKloster, that´s seems to be the problem and reason.

  16. jhayes says:

    dspecht, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

    “605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”410 He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.411 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”412”

    Perhaps you are thinking of an older version of the Catechism.

  17. Son of Trypho says:

    “Behind this is the ideology intended to reduce Jesus to a simple Palestinian, who was never touched by Hellenism.”

    -perhaps a simple Galilean?

    Whatever the case, to suggest that He was untouched by Hellenistic influences in that period is extremely unrealistic.

  18. Joe in Canada says:

    ps nice to see a Jesuit praised!

  19. robtbrown says:

    Son of Trypho says:

    “Behind this is the ideology intended to reduce Jesus to a simple Palestinian, who was never touched by Hellenism.”

    -perhaps a simple Galilean?

    I used “Palestinian” because of the distinction between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews, the former claimed by some to have been relatively untouched by Hellenism. Thus any notion at all of anything ontological is attributed to a later Scriptural addition reflecting preaching to Hellenistic Jews–and without historical basis.

    Whatever the case, to suggest that He was untouched by Hellenistic influences in that period is extremely unrealistic.

    Unrealistic, yes, but it’s a notion that has often been found in Protestant exegesis.

  20. ContraMundum says:


    What, you think the “Peace on earth, good will to men” is recent, as in post-Vatican 2? Not hardly. It’s from the King James Version, and that passage, at least, was not mistranslated out of intentional ideology. (Other passages were, but it was the ideology of 400 years ago, not the ideology of today.)

    You don’t say who it is who is “NOW” using the King James text. It is indeed questionable in most Catholic contexts. On the other hand, you need to realize that the King James Version has been more influential on the English language than even Shakespeare.

  21. maryh says:

    @reg “It is an automatic discriminator that indicates exactly what Fr. Lombardi said passively in his last paragraph: some people won’t make it.”

    Reading the Pope’s German letter, I don’t think that is what Fr. Lombardi is saying. The Pope says ‘Wie der Herr die anderen – „alle“ – auf seine Weise erreicht, bleibt letztlich sein Geheimnis.’ which I translate as ‘In the end, how the Lord for his part reaches the other “all” remains his secret.’

    In other words, it appears to me that the Pope says using “many” instead of “all” reminds us that we, the “many” who have been called to his table and who know that he suffered for us, have a responsibility to evangelize the “all” (as Fr. Lombardi said), which responsibility doesn’t go away just because we recognize the Lord may use some other way to reach those that we don’t reach.

    I also agree with the others that the words of consecration should probably remain in Latin. This discussion of exactly what the words mean should be part of catechesis.

  22. jhayes says:

    In an unofficial English translation, the Pope relates Jesus use of “many” to his intentional reference to Isaiah:

    But once again: Why “for many”? Did the Lord then not die for all? The fact that Jesus Christ, as incarnated Son of God, is the Man for all Men, the new Adam, belongs to the basic certainties of our faith. I would like to remind you of but three passages in Scripture: God gave His Son “up for the sake of all of us,” Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans (Rom. 8:32). “One man died for all,” he says in the Second Letter to the Corinthians about the death of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:14). Jesus has “offered himself as a ransom for all”, it says in the First Letter to Timothy (1  Tim 2:6). But then it is right to ask ourselves once again: When this is all so clear, why then does the Eucharistic Prayer say “for many”? Well, the Church took this formulation from the institution narrative from the New Testament. She does so out of respect for the Word of Jesus, to remain true to Him, also in the Word. The respect for the Word of Jesus is the  reason for the formulation of the prayer. But then we ask: why did Jesus say this Himself? The true reason for that is that Jesus, in this way, revealed Himself as the servant of God from Is 53, identified Himself as the form that the word of the prophet was expecting. Respect of the Church for Jesus’ Word, faithful to Jesus Word from Scripture, is this double faithfulness the solid basis for the formulation “for many”. In this chain of reverent loyalty we join the literal translation of the Word of Scripture.

    Isaiah 53:11-12 in the KJV says:

    ” 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

     12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

  23. jhayes says:

    The Pope also points out:

    Jesus, according to Matthew and Mark, said “for many”, but according to Luke and St. Paul “for you”…. In the words of consecration, the Roman Canon has united the two Biblical reading[s] and reads: “for you and for many”. At the reform of the liturgy, this formulation was then taken over for all prayers.


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