Recent translation changes in mass liturgy


For years the Credo began with the words: " We believe"rather than the correct: " I believe". Now after the supposed revisions, the start of the Gloria uses “people” instead of “men” .
Not being a latin scholar, I researched this the best I could and did not find anything near “people” as a correct translation of the latin word hominibus.
I attended a mass recently where the cantor sang the Gloria and used the word people stumbling pitifully over the two syllable word in place of “men”.
Is this oversight a purposeful concession to super-sensitive feminists who in the last part of the last century tried to castrate the liturgy and scriptural readings?


It has been my understanding that when Latin means “mankind” as a whole, men and women, “hominibus” or “homo” is correct.(Think “homo sapiens,” our species name.) When specifically “males” are meant, the Latin “vir” is used.


I don’t see how this would happen. In the old translation it was “peace to his people on earth.” And now it’s “people of good will.” The word “man” has never been part of the wording. Most of the sung or chanted Glorias are to the new translation so they would have never been to a one syllable word.

At my parish we sing Richard Proulx’s Gloria Simplex. No one struggles with the wording.


If I remember right, “hominibus” would translate to something like “man” (the one that is inclusive of all individual persons of the genus Homo sapien sapien), which can be generalized to “mankind” or “humankind”, of which “people” is a synonym. It’s a perfectly fair translation.

What would be more problematic is if the Latin root word was “vir”, which actually means man (as in the male gender).


Qui propter nos homines
et propter nostram salutem
descendit de coelis.

Clearly the Lord did not just descend from the heavens for the sake of males :o Thus, “homines” is to be understood as “people”, much like the angels said:

“et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis”

Clearly the angels were not singing God’s glory by saying: and on earth peace to males of good will :o

Now, clearly we could still use the English word men (if only that wasn’t “politically correct”) because it is written:

“God created man in his own image…male and female he created them”

It may be seen as a concession to a certain ideology that permeates certain prominent sectors of today’s society (and which, no doubt about it, has found its way inside the Church), but there’s nothing too bad in the end…after all, it’s only the vernacular. The vernacular languages don’t matter much. They are here today, and who knows tomorrow. The Credo and the Gloria have been wonderfully engraved in the sacred language of the Church per omnia saecula saeculorum.


Good point. This is very clear in John 1:

“neque ex voluntate viri”, “nor of a man’s decision” (where man is not a generic term)


There were no actual revisions?


Precisely. In the Latin there is no “ego” (“I”). It’s (credo) simply first person singular. Unlike Polish or Spanish, English has to supply the “I” making it sound a little, well…egotistical. At least that’s my take.


Translation is always a bit or an art…different languages have different nuances, etc. English, as a living language, changes meanings over time. Some structures simply don’t exist when going from one language to another. This doesn’t even get into puns, word-play, colloquialisms, figures of speech, idioms, cultural allusions, or the details of grammar, syntax, etc., etc.

When James Joyce’s Ulysses was translated into Chinese the explanatory footnotes exceeded the text.

Too many people think translation is straightforward because that’s what they experienced as children leaning French/Spanish or whatever in high school. Believe it or not, that experience, while good, is a child’s experience, and needs to be understood as such. A competent translation of something like the Mass that is nuanced and needs to be orthodox is a rigorous and problematic exercise for many reasons. Straightforward, to put it mildly, “it ain’t.”


It depends on the method used to translate, whether its dynamic equivalence or a literal translation. The older translations used dynamic equivalence rather than the current literal translation.


I am not too worried about this particular translation bit.

Ugh! Ulysses would be slaughtered in another language!


Explanations and visuals (pictures, plays, etc.) generally do a better job than translations. They say the true test of a translation from A to B is whether A can be recreated from B afterwards. You’ll find many, if not most, translations to or from English would fail this test, especially when ancient languages are involved.


I’d forgotten that little rule. Thanks for the refresher. :tiphat: :slight_smile:


Hmmm :o Well, when you consider the humble modern vernacular language called English, it can only render the first person singular as “I believe”. Other vernacular translations avoid the “I”.

Now, it is essential to understand that it is not randomly that the word is “Credo” rather than “Credimus” (meaning: it is not by chance that the first person singular was used). It is meant to be an individual profession of faith. I, I myself, freely and knowingly, profess my belief, in union with the Communion of Saints on earth and in the next life.



Actually, I can see that happening even in English.



If not the least vulgar and barbaric. :rolleyes:

However, it is a good analytic tool, though.

A Shakespeare paperback is probably a good example of that.

closed #17

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