Japan has had the same Missal since 1978, which had been in the process of getting revised without much success until now due to the complications involved in the process. In more recent years, however, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which needs to approve all translations, has shown more willingness to cooperate and accept versions which are further away from the original Latin version.
On March 18, Bishop Masahiro Umemura of Yokohama, president of the Committee for the Liturgy at the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Japan (CBCJ), visited the Congregation with finished versions of the translations of “The Order of the Mass and Eucharistic Prayers 1 – 4” and “The General Instruction of the Roman Missal”. On this occasion, the Romans were more willing to listen to the reasons behind the changes and modifications which took the translations away from the original, as the members of the Congregation had all been replaced.
The CBCJ is currently waiting for a formal response from Rome, which will take three months, but the Japanese appreciate the change of attitude. In CBCJ committee secretary Miyakoshi’s own words, the Japanese found that they could finally discuss the matter of the translation on equal terms.
Previous versions had been rejected by the Romans in 2006 and 2007 because they were found to be too far away from the Latin versions. The modifications were made to bring certain phrases closer to Japanese culture and avoid misunderstandings among the parishioners but, according to Bishop Umemura, the Congregation stuck to the regulations.
Translating the Japanese Missal is a challenging process which involves struggling to get the deep meanings of religion through. Actions and gestures carried out during mass are also to be translated with extra care, taking into account the difference in backgrounds. According to Bishop Umemura, the presence of the new Argentinian Pope is having a reforming effect on the Catholic church altogether. He also highlighted the freedom that has been granted to local bishops more recently, which has affected the way in which things are done within the Church.