Aug 30, 2005

On the Use of Chinese in the Mass


Decree of the Holy Office
April 12, 1949
(Canon Law Digest 5, 429)

Prot. No. 3/49
Cardinal Constantini in Ultime Foglie, 376-377.

In the plenary session of Wednesday, March 9, 1949, the eminent fathers of this Supreme Sacred Congregation examined the question of granting a broader permission to use the Chinese language in the sacred liturgy, in view of the benefits which may be hoped for from it for the evangelization of the infidels in that vast country . . . . As for the celebration of holy Mass, a missal may be composed for the Chinese people, in which are printed in literal Chinese all those parts which occur from the beginning of the Mass up to the beginning of the canon, and from the postcommunion to the end of the Mass. As for the canon, it should remain in Latin, except for those parts which are recited aloud (Pater noster, Pax Domini and Agnus Dei).

The Holy Father, in the audience of Thursday, March 10, 1949, deigned to approve this resolution, and ordained that the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith shall, through its proper departments, provide an exact translation of those texts of the Mass which are to be said in the Chinese language.

Note: The above decree of the Holy Office has remained relatively unknown and entirely unused because of the tardy translation of the texts and the supervening disturbances in China.

R. Kevin Seasoltz, The New Liturgy: A Documentation, 1903 to 1965, Herder and Herder, New York, 1966.


Numquam Satis said...

Thank you for this post: I'm very grateful of this quote. I'm Chinese living in Taiwan and "the use of Chinese in the Mass" is everyday practice now for Catholics here. Whilst I personally prefer the liturgy in Latin, I cannot deny the endeavours painstakingly done by my forefathers in the Catholic faith. After half a century, we have to begin to asses if this use of Chinese in the sacred liturgy really helped the evangelisation of the infideles.

Keith Kenney said...


You're quite welcome. I, too, prefer Latin but I try to remember that Latin was it's own vernacular in it's day too. I think that there is much to say for the use of Latin in that it helps to foster a certain unity in language and song among those belonging to the Roman Rite. Never the less, the vernacular has it's own advantages, and used properly can be just as sacral in expression. The Eastern Churches have much to teach us in this regard.