1. The Second Vatican Council strongly desired to preserve with care the authentic Liturgy, which flows forth from the Church's living and most ancient spiritual tradition, and to adapt it with pastoral wisdom to the genius of the various peoples so that the faithful might find in their full, conscious, and active participation in the sacred actions — especially the celebration of the Sacraments — an abundant source of graces and a means for their own continual formation in the Christian mystery.
2. Thereupon there began, under the care of the Supreme Pontiffs, the great work of renewal of the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, a work which included their translation into vernacular languages, with the purpose of bringing about in the most diligent way that renewal of the sacred Liturgy which was one of the foremost intentions of the Council.
3. The liturgical renewal thus far has seen positive results, achieved through the labor and the skill of many, but in particular of the Bishops, to whose care and zeal this great and difficult charge is entrusted. Even so, the greatest prudence and attention is required in the preparation of liturgical books marked by sound doctrine, which are exact in wording, free from all ideological influence, and otherwise endowed with those qualities by which the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language to prayer, and worthy worship is offered to God the Most High.
4. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its deliberations and decrees assigned a singular importance to the liturgical rites, the ecclesiastical traditions, and the discipline of Christian life proper to those particular Churches, especially of the East, which are distinguished by their venerable antiquity, manifesting in various ways the tradition received through the Fathers from the Apostles. The Council asked that the traditions of each of these particular Churches be preserved whole and intact. For this reason, even while calling for the revision of the various Rites in accordance with sound tradition, the Council set forth the principle that only those changes were to be introduced which would foster their specific organic development. Clearly, the same vigilance is required for the safeguarding and the authentic development of the liturgical rites, the ecclesiastical traditions, and the discipline of the Latin Church, and in particular, of the Roman Rite. The same care must be brought also to the translation of the liturgical texts into vernacular languages. This is especially true as regards the Roman Missal, which will thus continue to be maintained as an outstanding sign and instrument of the integrity and unity of the Roman Rite.
5. Indeed, it may be affirmed that the Roman Rite is itself a precious example and an instrument of true inculturation. For the Roman Rite is marked by a signal capacity for assimilating into itself spoken and sung texts, gestures and rites derived from the customs and the genius of diverse nations and particular Churches — both Eastern and Western — into a harmonious unity that transcends the boundaries of any single region. This characteristic is particularly evident in its orations, which exhibit a capacity to transcend the limits of their original situation so as to become the prayers of Christians in any time or place. In preparing all translations of the liturgical books, the greatest care is to be taken to maintain the identity and unitary expression of the Roman Rite, not as a sort of historical monument, but rather as a manifestation of the theological realities of ecclesial communion and unity. The work of inculturation, of which the translation into vernacular languages is a part, is not therefore to be considered an avenue for the creation of new varieties or families of rites; on the contrary, it should be recognized that any adaptations introduced out of cultural or pastoral necessity thereby become part of the Roman Rite, and are to be inserted into it in a harmonious way.
6. Ever since the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the work of the translation of the liturgical texts into vernacular languages, as promoted by the Apostolic See, has involved the publication of norms and the communication to the Bishops of advice on the matter. Nevertheless, it has been noted that translations of liturgical texts in various localities stand in need of improvement through correction or through a new draft. The omissions or errors which affect certain existing vernacular translations — especially in the case of certain languages — have impeded the progress of the inculturation that actually should have taken place. Consequently, the Church has been prevented from laying the foundation for a fuller, healthier and more authentic renewal.
7. For these reasons, it now seems necessary to set forth anew, and in light of the maturing of experience, the principles of translation to be followed in future translations — whether they be entirely new undertakings or emendations of texts already in use — and to specify more clearly certain norms that have already been published, taking into account a number of questions and circumstances that have arisen in our own day. In order to take full advantage of the experience gained since the Council, it seems useful to express these norms from time to time in terms of tendencies that have been evident in past translations, but which are to be avoided in future ones. In fact, it seems necessary to consider anew the true notion of liturgical translation in order that the translations of the Sacred Liturgy into the vernacular languages may stand secure as the authentic voice of the Church of God. This Instruction therefore envisions and seeks to prepare for a new era of liturgical renewal, which is consonant with the qualities and the traditions of the particular Churches, but which safeguards also the faith and the unity of the whole Church of God.
8. The norms set forth in this Instruction are to be substituted for all norms previously published on the matter, with the exception of the Instruction Varietates legitimae, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on 25 January 1994, in conjunction with which the norms in this present Instruction are to be understood. The norms contained in this Instruction are to be considered applicable to the translation of texts intended for liturgical use in the Roman Rite and, mutatis mutandis, in the other duly recognized Rites of the Latin Church.
9. When it may be deemed appropriate by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a text will be prepared after consultation with Bishops, called a "ratio translationis", to be set forth by the authority of the same Dicastery, in which the principles of translation found in this Instruction will be applied in closer detail to a given language. This document may be composed of various elements as the situation may require, such as, for example, a list of vernacular words to be equated with their Latin counterparts, the setting forth of principles applicable specifically to a given language, and so forth.