ROME, 29 MAY 2012 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: In the new Roman Missal in English the Eucharistic Prayers for use in children's Masses are not included. Is there some special reason for this? Does this omission mean they cannot be used? In any case, is it still allowed to use them from the previous missal? — J.S., Naxxar, Malta
A: The Eucharistic Prayers for Children were first introduced in 1974. At the time, three prayers were introduced on an experimental basis. Bishops' conferences could use one of them and were permitted to make a fairly free translation of the texts while respecting the basic structure. Most bishops' conferences asked for permission to use all three, and this was generally granted them for a limited period of time. In 1980 Pope John Paul II permitted their continued use until something else was determined.
Because of their experimental status, and the restrictions on their use to groups of children in or around the age of first Communion, these prayers were not usually published within the Roman Missal but in separate books. They might have been included in the missal in some places, but it was not a general practice.
When the third typical edition of the Latin Roman Missal was published in 2002 it included the three Eucharistic Prayers for Children in an appendix. This inclusion might have been simply for the sake of completeness as it is highly unlikely that they will ever be used, given the dearth of 8-year-old Latin scholars.
This first printing of the Latin missal contained numerous typographical errors. John Paul II also made some new additions to the universal liturgical calendar after the publication of the missal. These additions included Our Lady of Guadalupe and the memorials of saints Juan Diego and Pio of Pietrelcina.
Thus when it became necessary to reprint the missal in 2008, the Congregation for Divine Worship did not limit itself to correcting errors. Rather, it made some further refinements to the text and the rubrics among which was the elimination of the Latin texts of the Masses for Children.
Since this implied a change in the official text, this omission was submitted to the Holy Father for approval along with two other changes to the missal. Pope Benedict XVI approved this change which was promulgated by a decree on May 8, 2008 (Decree 652-08L Notitiae 45 (2008) pages 175-176). The decree also stated that henceforth the Masses for Children should be printed outside the Roman Missal even in future revised translations.
Since this second reprint was the basis for translating the Missal into English, the children's prayers were not included in the missal.
This does not mean that they can no longer be used. They remain approved for use under the same conditions as before.
Should the Holy See eventually revise the texts and discipline of these prayers, it still considers it better to keep them separate from the general missal. Perhaps this was done so as to remove any temptation to consider them as Eucharistic Prayers for general use with all assemblies and not a pedagogical introduction to the liturgy for young children.
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Follow-up: Children's Masses [6-12-2012]
In the wake of our comments on the relationship between the new missal translation and the Eucharistic Prayers for Children (see May 29), a reader offered this valuable information: "Today's post on Children's Masses notes that the current texts dating from 1974 are still in use. You may also know that the U.S. [bishops'] conference has updated the 1974 text to conform to the new Missal. […] Here is a link to the USCCB publication: http://www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1697."
The U.S. bishops' conference is working on updates of several liturgical rites so that they correspond to the new missal. Although in some cases this is a temporary solution, it is still worthwhile since fully fledged retranslations of such rites might take years to complete.
These new books will have official standing only in the United States.
However, in countries that use the same English translation of the rites as that used in the United States, these updated versions could also be used as they simply adapt the rite to the common elements of the new missal such as the liturgical greetings, responses and prayer collects.
They would not be of use for those rites for which a national bishops' conference has prepared its own translation or where the bishops have significantly adapted the rites to local customs, as often occurs for the celebration of weddings and funerals.