ICEL Consultation Held in Washington

Wednesday, April 26 2000

(Washington – CCCB) — A meeting of presidents of English-speaking Episcopal Conferences took place in Washington, D.C., on April 25, 2000, to discuss the mission and purpose of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). The meeting was held in executive session, but the participants authorized the following joint statement:

“At the initiative of Cardinal Thomas J. Winning of Glasgow, Galveston-Houston Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U. S. Catholic Conference, invited the presidents of the English-speaking Episcopal Conferences which established the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to participate in the meeting in Washington, D.C.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss, among other things, the revision of ICEL’s constitution. Besides the Conference presidents who attended, bishops who serve on the ICEL Episcopal Board or who chair their Conferences’ liturgical commissions were also present.

“The meeting involved an exchange of information, and it was not the purpose of the participants to take any formal action on behalf of their Conferences.

“The participants found widespread agreement on the following points:

  1. It is the competence of the Episcopal Conference, in accord with Canon Law, to prepare and approve translations of texts which become liturgical texts after recognition by the Holy See.
  2. Such translations must always be faithful to the Latin text, theologically sound, pastorally and culturally sensitive, and liturgically effective.
  3. The service of the ICEL staff, translators, and other expert advisers in preparing an English vernacular liturgy has been invaluable and essential.The participants expressed gratitude for this work and praised the expertise with which it has been done, while also considering matters which have caused some concern.
  4. After more than 30 years of experience, the need for revisions in the ICEL constitution is apparent, especially with regard to increasing episcopaloversight for ICEL’s work, to guarantee its fidelity in translation and theological, pastoral, and liturgical soundness.
  5. The revised constitution, which a working group of the Episcopal Board has drafted, addresses the need for revision in practical and effective ways and provides a good foundation for further discussion and refinement.
  6. The participants affirmed the need for regular consultation and dialogue with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.Translation is an important but not the sole element in making the vernacular liturgy truly the ‘summit and source’ of Christian life. Across a whole range of issues affecting the liturgy, the fraternal collaboration of the Conferences with the Congregation guarantees that the liturgy will have its central place in the faith life of Catholic people.

“Conferences represented by their presidents, along with Bishop Fiorenza and Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, vice-president of the U.S. Bishops’Conference, were: Australia, Cardinal Edward B. Clancy of Sydney; Canada, Bishop Gerald Wiesner, OMI, of Prince George; England and Wales, Archbishop Michael G. Bowen of Southwark; Ireland, Archbishop Sean B. Brady of Armagh; New Zealand, Bishop Peter J. Cullinane of Palmerston North; Scotland, CardinalWinning; and Southern Africa, Archbishop Wilfred F. Napier, OFM, of Durban.

“Members of the ICEL Episcopal Board present were Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, of Chicago, U.S. representative; Bishop James Foley of Cairns,Australian representative; and Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway, Scottish representative and chairman of the ICEL Episcopal Board. Chairmen of liturgicalcommissions present were Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb of Mobile, chairman of the U.S. Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, and Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI, of Labrador-Schefferville, chairman of the Canadian Liturgical Commission.”

ICEL was created in 1963. It is a joint enterprise of the Bishops’ Conferences of Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland, Southern Africa, and the United States to enable these Conferences to collaborate in the development of the vernacular liturgy in light of the reform of the Roman Rite called for by the Second Vatican Council. ICEL’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C.