By Father Edward McNamara
Rome, 16 June 2015 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Just inquiring whether the three Eucharistic Prayers for Children have been updated in the new translation. I have not been able to find copies of them anywhere. Is it permitted to use them as they exist, simply inserting the new translation of the common words of consecration? — F.D., Johannesburg, South Africa
A: The Eucharistic Prayers for Masses 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 was highly unlikely that they would 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, 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.
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.
Since this second reprint was the basis for translating the Missal into English, the children's prayers were not included in the missal.
In publishing the decree, and in earlier letters to the bishops' conferences announcing the change, the Vatican congregation announced it would publish a new version of the Eucharistic Prayers for children as a separate text at a later date which would revise both the expression and the discipline for the use of these Eucharistic Prayers.
In fact, the U.S. bishops were already planning to revise the original versions of the children's Eucharistic Prayer before this announcement, but the project was logically suspended.
So far, the Holy See has issued no new version of these prayers. It is probably waiting for the bishops' conferences of the major world languages to complete the process of translating the new Roman Missal before moving ahead with this task.
In the meantime the original versions remain approved for use under the same conditions as before. However, after the publication of the new English Roman Missal the U.S. bishops' conference updated the 1974 text to conform to the new text. The new versions include the revised translations of the preface dialogue, Sanctus, the consecration, memorial acclamations and concluding doxology. Details about this text may be found at http://www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=1697.
Although this text is formally approved for use in the United States, it could probably be used elsewhere since it does not introduce any novelty and simply updates the text in accordance with the missal; and this process has been approved for other cases such as the liturgical greeting in other sacraments. All the same, it would be prudent to seek authorization from one's own bishop before use outside the United States.