The sacrament of penance in the Roman rite will be receiving some changes in its English translation starting Ash Wednesday on February 22, 2023.

The changes to the prayer of absolution were approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during their Spring 2021 meeting and later approved by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in April 2022. As of April 16, 2023, the revised formula for absolution is mandatory.

According to Father Andrew Menke, Executive Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Divine Worship, the essential part of the absolution formula has not changed, but the changes were made to ensure a more accurate translation from Latin.

He notes that while penitents who are a little scrupulous might be concerned if the old form of absolution is used by priests, the heart of the sacrament remains intact, and the absolution is still valid.

Father Dennis Gill, Director of the Office for Divine Worship at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, sees the update as a wonderful opportunity to reiterate and teach the importance of the sacrament of penance and catechize about the sacrament itself.

The updates are part of a larger effort by the Vatican to ensure accuracy in the translation of liturgical texts, following the instruction from the Holy See to bishops around the world at the beginning of the 21st century to make translations more accurate.

The translation process is rigorous and involves opportunities for bishops to review and reconsider updates, with the final decision on implementation being made by each bishop’s conference.

So far, new English translations of liturgical books have been completed for confirmation, matrimony, exorcism, the dedication of a church, the blessing of oils, the baptism of children, and ordination.

Father Menke hopes that in ten years, the church will start a period of stability in translation that will last a long time, after the ongoing change of the last 10 years or so.

The revised version will read as follows:

“God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and poured out [formerly “sent”] the Holy Spirit for [previously “Holy Spirit among us for”] the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God grant [instead of “give”] you pardon and peace.
And I absolve you from your sins
in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

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