Other languages in the Mass

I am a New Zealander and the native people of our country are the Maori.

The Maori language is spoken fluently by some 10,000 people in my country - but very few Catholics (most Maori Christians are Anglicans). I have never met a Maori Catholic in my home diocese, for instance.

Nevertheless, for reasons I suspect are due to political correctness rather than pastoral concern, my PP has started introducing random Maori words and phrases into the Mass.

In the first instance, this annoys me because while Latin is completely excluded on the grounds that few people understand it,this even more esoteric language (which relates not one whit to our Catholic heritage) is so gleefully employed.

In the second instance, my understanding is that the Mass must be said in Latin or in lawfully approved language. I am not aware of any Maori translation that was approved by the Bishops conference and the Holy See.

Before I make a fool of myself, is there anywhere I can review a list of approved translations?

My guess it’s easily in the several hundreds. Chicago alone has 24 approved translations.


First, since the land you are in has Maori speakers, it means the Church is reaching out to them. Just because they aren’t Catholics now doesn’t mean they can’t be Catholics. This isn’t about political correctness, its about reaching out to the people of the land. The Church inculturates, it has always been that way since the beginning. Otherwise, we’d all be hearing Mass in Aramaic and practicing Jewish culture since that is the language and culture of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. But we all know that they adopted Greek culture and language for the Greeks. Later on Latin, then there’s a host of other languages and cultures that were adopted for the local Churches that were established.

Second, recognitio by the Holy See for translations need to be published. Are you looking for some sort of approval document plastered in parish bulletin boards? Its not that way. The local Bishops will draft the translations, send it to the Vatican for recognitio. They receive it then implement the translation. They don’t have to make people aware about it.

  1. you know for a fact that no speakers are in your parish or have expressed an interest in Mass in that language in your diocese? What have your bishops said?
  2. What random phrases and words? are these places where a word or phrase in any other language would not be out of place?
  3. If he had translated an entire required prayer into the language on his own authority that would indeed be a problem. Random words and phrases–until you give examples we cannot judge. If they are part of his homily or other parts of the Mass that admit the priest’s choice in phrasing, there is no problem whatever.
  4. the fact that any Catholic, anywhere in the world, would object to the standard Mass of the people being available to speakers of the native language of that country is quite simply appalling and contrary to the entire spirit of evangelization. Where did Christ say “spread the good new throughout the world in your own language but by all means refrain from speaking to people in their own tongue.”

I see where you’re going but in a world that speaks an estimated 7,000 different languages, you have to admit things can get very costly too.

where is that an issue?
we are speaking of one language, in one country where it is the original language although unfortunately still spoken only by a small minority. The question is not cost, which is not even on the table, but whether evangelizing the unchurched in the country requires that translation. Repeat: what have their bishops said?

Costs are not always measured with dollars and cents; they can come as available resources. If you have the resources to translate a whole liturgy into one specific language for just one person, then fine, I’m with you.

In Scotland you occasionally encounter a Gaelic Mass, and sometimes encounter small sections of the mass in Gaelic, even outwith traditional Gaelic speaking areas. Several Gaelic prayers were included in the Papal Mass in Glasgow last September, with the Holy Father ending his homily with a brief Gaelic blessing. Gaelic only has around 60,000 day-to-day speakers out of a national population of 5,000,000. To my knowledge a Gaelic mass translation has only ever been approved at a diocesan level. I think if Gaelic’s acceptable (and in the eyes of the Pope it certainly is), it’s safe to say Maori is too.

And if that can’t be arranged, it would be perfectly fine (and would not violate anyone’s copyrights) to say the Latin Mass (OF) with plenty of Gaelic or Maori explanations. Just saying.

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