angels Topics

Art & Architecture
Sacred Music
Lit. Year
Lit. of Hours
Oth. Sacraments
Liturgical Texts
Rubrics & Law


The Catholic Liturgical Library
HomeNewFAQSearchForumLinksMailCatholic Store
You are here: Documents > General Principles > Fourth Instruction on the orderly carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy  Back one page.

Table of Contents
Table of ContentsChapter III. Principles and Practical Norms for the Inculturation of the Roman RiteConclusionEndnotes

Chapter IV. Areas of Adaptation in the Roman Rite

52. The constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium had in mind an inculturation of the Roman rite when it gave norms for the adaptation of the liturgy to the mentality and needs of different peoples, when it provided for a degree of adaptation in the liturgical books (cf. below Nos. 53-61), and also when it envisaged the possibility of more profound adaptations in some circumstances, especially in mission countries (cf. below Nos. 63-64).

a. Adaptations in the Liturgical Books

53. The first significant measure of inculturation is the translation of liturgical books into the language of the people.[105] The completion of translations and their revision, where necessary, should be effected according to the directives given by the Holy See on this subject.[106] Different literary genres are to be respected, and the content of the texts of the Latin typical edition is to be preserved; at the same time the translations must be understandable to participants (cf. above No. 39), suitable for proclamation and singing, with appropriate responses and acclamations by the assembly.

All peoples, even the most primitive, have a religious language which is suitable for expressing prayer, but liturgical language has its own special characteristics: It is deeply impregnated by the Bible; certain words in current Latin use (memoria, sacramentum) took on a new meaning in the Christian faith. Certain Christian expressions can be transmitted from one language to another, as has happened in the past, for example in the case of ecclesia, evangelium, baptisma, eucharistia.

Moreover, translators must be attentive to the relationship between the text and the liturgical action, aware of the needs of oral communication and sensitive to the literary qualities of the living language of the people. The qualities needed for liturgical translations are also required in the case of new compositions, when they are envisaged.

54. For the celebration of the eucharist, the Roman Missal, "while allowing ... for legitimate differences and adaptations according to the prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council," must remain "a sign and instrument of unity"[107] of the Roman rite in different languages. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal foresees that "in accordance with the constitution on the liturgy, each conference of bishops has the power to lay down norms for its own territory that are suited to the traditions and character of peoples, regions and different communities."[108] The same also applies to the gestures and postures of the faithful,[109] the ways in which the altar and the book of the Gospels are venerated,[110] the texts of the opening chants,[111] the song at the preparation of the gifts[112] and the communion song,[113] the rite of peace,[114] conditions regulating communion with the chalice,[115] the materials for the construction of the altar and liturgical furniture,[116] the material and form of sacred vessels,[117] liturgical vestments.[118] Episcopal conferences can also determine the manner of distributing communion.[119]

55. For the other sacraments and for sacramentals, the Latin typical edition of each ritual indicates the adaptations which pertain to the episcopal conferences[120] or to individual bishops in particular circumstances.[121] These adaptations concern texts, gestures and sometimes the ordering of the rite. When the typical edition gives alternative formulas, conferences of bishops can add other formulas of the same kind.

56. For the rites of Christian initiation, episcopal conferences are "to examine with care and prudence what can properly be admitted from the traditions and character of each people"[122] and "in mission countries to judge whether initiation ceremonies practiced among the people can be adapted into the rite of Christian initiation and to decide whether they should be used."[123] It is necessary to remember, however, that the term initiation does not have the same meaning or designate the same reality when it is used of social rites of initiation among certain peoples or when it is contrary to the process of Christian initiation, which leads through the rites of the catechumenate to incorporation into Christ in the church by means of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and eucharist.

57. In many places it is the marriage rite that calls for the greatest degree of adaptation so as not to be foreign to social customs. To adapt it to the customs of different regions and peoples, each episcopal conference has the "faculty to prepare its own proper marriage rite, which must always conform to the law which requires that the ordained minister or the assisting lay person,[124] according to the case, must ask for and obtain the consent of the contracting parties and give them the nuptial blessing."[125] This proper rite must obviously bring out clearly the Christian meaning of marriage, emphasize the grace of the sacrament and underline the duties of the spouses.[126]

58. Among all peoples, funerals are always surrounded with special rites, often of great expressive value. To answer to the needs of different countries, the Roman Ritual offers several forms of funerals.[127] Episcopal conferences must choose those which correspond best to local customs.[128] They will wish to preserve all that is good in family traditions and local customs, and ensure that funeral rites manifest the Christian faith in the resurrection and bear witness to the true values of the Gospel.[129] It is in this perspective that funeral rituals can incorporate the customs of different cultures and respond as best they can to the needs and traditions of each region.[130]

59. The blessing of persons, places or things touches the everyday life of the faithful and answers their immediate needs. They offer many possibilities for adaptation, for maintaining local customs and admitting popular usages.[131] Episcopal conferences will be able to employ the foreseen dispositions and be attentive to the needs of the country.

60. As regards the liturgical year, each particular church and religious family adds its own celebrations to those of the universal church, after approval by the Apostolic See.[132] Episcopal conferences can also, with the prior approval of the Apostolic See, suppress the obligation of certain feasts or transfer them to a Sunday.[133] They also decide the time and manner of celebrating rogationtide and ember days.[134]

61. The Liturgy of the Hours has as its goal the praise of God and the sanctification by prayer of the day and all human activity. Episcopal conferences can make adaptations in the second reading of the office of readings, hymns and intercessions and in the final Marian antiphons.[135]


62. When an episcopal conference prepares its own edition of liturgical books, it decides about the translations and also the adaptations which are envisaged by the law.[136] The acts of the conference, together with the final vote, are signed by the president and secretary of the conference and sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, along with two copies of the approved text.

Moreover along with the complete dossier should be sent:

a) A succinct and precise explanation of the reasons for the adaptations that have been introduced.
b) Indications as to which sections have been taken from other already approved liturgical books and which are newly composed.

After the recognition by the Apostolic See has been received according to the law,[137] the episcopal conference promulgates the decree and determines the date when the new text comes into force.

b. Adaptations Envisaged By No. 40 of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy

63. Apart from the adaptations provided for in the liturgical books, it may be that "in some places and circumstances an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties."[138] This is more than the sort of adaptations envisaged by the general instructions and the praenotanda of the liturgical books.

It presupposes that an episcopal conference has exhausted all the possibilities of adaptation offered by the liturgical books; that it has made an evaluation of the adaptations already introduced and maybe revised them before proceeding to more far-reaching adaptations.

The desirability or need for an adaptation of this sort can emerge in one of the areas mentioned above (cf. Nos. 5361) without the others being affected. Moreover, adaptations of this kind do not envisage a transformation of the Roman rite, but are made within the context of the Roman rite.

64. In some places when there are still problems about the participation of the faithful, a bishop or several bishops can set out their difficulties to their colleagues in the episcopal conference and examine with them the desirability of introducing more profound adaptations, if the good of souls truly requires it.[139]

It is the function of episcopal conferences to propose to the Apostolic See the modifications it wishes to adopt following the procedure set out below.[140]

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is ready to receive the proposals of episcopal conferences and examine them, keeping in mind the good of the local churches concerned and the common good of the universal church, and to assist the process of inculturation where it is desirable or necessary. It will do this in accordance with the principles laid down in this instruction (cf. above, Nos. 3351), and in a spirit of confident collaboration and shared responsibility.


65. The episcopal conference will examine what has to be modified in liturgical celebrations because of the traditions and mentality of peoples. It will ask the national or regional liturgical commission to study the matter and examine the different aspects of the elements of local culture and their eventual inclusion in the liturgical celebrations. The commission is to ensure that it receives the appropriate expert advice. It may be sometimes opportune to ask the advice of members of non-Christian religions about the religious or civil value of this or that element (cf. above Nos. 30-32).

If the situation requires it, this preliminary examination will be made in collaboration with the episcopal conferences of neighboring countries or those with the same culture (cf. above Nos. 33-51).

66. The episcopal conference will present the proposal to the congregation before any experimentation takes place. The presentation should include a description of the innovations proposed, the reasons for their adoption, the criteria used, the times and places chosen for a preliminary experiment and an indication which groups will make it, and finally the acts of the discussion and the vote of the conference.

After an examination of the proposal carried out together by the episcopal conference and the congregation, the latter will grant the episcopal conference a faculty to make an experiment for a definite period of time, where this is appropriate.[141]

67. The episcopal conference will supervise the process of experimentation,[142] normally with the help of the national or regional liturgical commission. The conference will also take care to ensure that the experimentation does not exceed the limits of time and place that were fixed. It will also ensure pastors and the faithful know about the limited and provisional nature of the experiment, and it will not give it publicity of a sort which could have an effect on the liturgical practice of the country. At the end of the period of experimentation, the episcopal conference will decide whether it matches up to the goal that was proposed or whether it needs revision, and it will communicate its conclusions to the congregation along with full information about the experiment.

68. After examining the dossier, the congregation will issue a decree giving its consent, possibly with some qualifications, so that the changes can be introduced into the territory covered by the episcopal conference.

69. The faithful, both lay people and clergy, should be well informed about the changes and prepared for their introduction into the liturgical celebrations. The changes are to be put into effect as circumstances require, with a transition period if this is appropriate (cf. above No. 61).

Table of ContentsChapter III. Principles and Practical Norms for the Inculturation of the Roman RiteConclusionEndnotes

You are here: Documents > General Principles > Fourth Instruction on the orderly carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy  Back one page.

Home | New | FAQ | Search | Forum | Links

All contents © copyright, 1998-2018
The Catholic Liturgical Library

You are here: Documents > General Principles > Fourth Instruction on the orderly carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy  Back one page.

Home | New | FAQ | Search | Forum | Links

All contents © copyright, 1998-2018
The Catholic Liturgical Library