Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Lord’s Prayer: Pope Francis suggests changes, but that’s unlikely in Williamsburg

While a newer translation of the prayer was recently finished for French Catholics, there’s no indication American Catholics will look to change the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the “Our Father.” (Courtesy Alfredo Borba)
While a newer translation of the prayer was recently finished for French Catholics, there’s no indication American Catholics will look to change the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the “Our Father.” (Courtesy Alfredo Borba)

An old theological question raised by Pope Francis about the Lord’s Prayer will likely lead to few changes anytime soon in Williamsburg.

On Dec. 6, the pope suggested parts of the Lord’s Prayer could be better translated. The suggestion, made on Italian ecclesiastical television channel TV2000, was internationally reported and rekindled tensions between different Christian sects.

The pope suggested the line “lead us not into temptation” was a poor translation compared to its source, as only Satan, not God, leads people astray into sin.

“Do not let us fall into temptation,” would be a better translation the pope said, according to a translation of the interview in the New York Times.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said in the New York Times translation. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

The pope has the authority to change doctrine on his own, however that’s not the case with the Lord’s Prayer.

While a newer translation of the prayer was recently finished for French Catholics, there’s no indication American Catholics will look to change the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the “Our Father.”

Monsignor Timothy Keeney, pastor of St. Bede Catholic Church in James City County, said there will likely be no changes to the prayer in the near-term.

“Even if a decision were to be made, it wouldn’t be a decision that would be implemented for months if not years, and maybe even decades,” Keeney said. “Nothing’s going to be changing next week or even next month, in terms of how people pray the Our Father.”

The last time the Lord’s Prayer was amended was in 1988 when the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) debated a translation.

However, the changes to the Lord’s Prayer were often ignored by English-speaking Christians worldwide.

Rev. Daniel Willson of Williamsburg Baptist Church (Brandy Centolanza/WYDaily)

“Its acceptance has been growing steadily but is still far from universal,” a report from the ELLC stated in 1988. “ Many Christians are deeply attached to more traditional versions [of the Lord’s Prayer].”

For Rev. Daniel Willson, senior pastor at the Williamsburg Baptist Church, the changes touched upon by Pope Francis will not lead to a change in the congregants practice their faith at the church.

“We are not going to change the current form of the Lord’s Prayer in the foreseeable future,” Willson wrote in an email. “Not only are we far removed from the Pope’s ecclesiastical authority; but also, I don’t see the change to be terribly necessary.”

The nuances of the prayer are due to multiple translations throughout the centuries, from English, Latin, and written-Greek, to the Aramaic Jesus is said to have spoken, according to Keeney.

“This is not the first time the question has come up,” said Father Keeney. “The translation is almost the same as it was, when it was translated in Elizabethan times. Holy things tend to stay around a long time, especially something so ingrained.”

Willson said he was looking more to changing the language he uses for God to be “more gender-inclusive.”

A statue of Jesus stands over the square of St. Bedes Catholic Church in James City County. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)
A statue of Jesus stands over the square of St. Bede Catholic Church in James City County. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily)

“This definitely challenges the ‘muscle memory’ that inclines some us toward referring to God exclusively as a ‘He,’” Willson wrote in an email.

While changes in the different sects of Christianity come slowly, and not all sects agree with the right path, there’s always an opportunity for translations to be closer to God’s word, Keeney said.

“The pope brings up a valid theological point: God never tempts anyone,” Keeney said.


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