This post originally appeared on 23rd June,2013 under the title "JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH".


On 21st June,2013, just a couple of days ago, the Holy Father Pope Francis spoke to a gathering of Papal Nuncios from around the world, exhorting them to ever more devout and faithful Christ centred service.

His Holiness' habit of making " off the cuff" remarks must indeed be a challenge for the staff and translators of the Vatican Information Service, but in reporting these remarks in particular , they appear to have made a capital blunder causing grave concern to a number of people around the globe who are carefully interested in what the Holy Father has to say.

In referring to a particularly important task of the Nuncios - the handing on of recommendations for appointment to the Episcopate, the Holy Father was reported to have said :

".....The Holy Father wanted to conclude his address by highlighting one of the principal and most delicate tasks of the representatives, to look for episcopal appointments: “be attentive,” he told them, “that the candidates are Pastors who are close to the people, fathers and brothers; that they are gentle, patient, and merciful; that they love poverty, interior poverty as freedom for the Lord and exterior poverty as simplicity and austerity of life; that they don't have a 'principles' psychology. Be attentive that they aren't ambitious, that they don't seek the episcopate—'volentes nolumus'—and that they are spouses of a Church without constantly seeking another. That they are capable of 'keeping an eye on' the flock that will be entrusted to them, that is, of caring for everything that keeps it united; of being 'vigilant' over it; of being attentive to dangers that threaten it; but above all that they are capable of 'keeping an eye over' the flock; of keeping watch; of tending hope, that there is sun and light in their hearts; of sustaining with love and patience the plans that God has for his people.”

I cast a few enquiries out around the Internet as to what this might mean ( because it seemed odd and even alarming) . Thanks to Father Kurt Barragan in the U.K. I have what I believe is the answer: defective translation . The Holy Father speaking in Italian as is his custom, apparently used the word " principi" which means " Princes" (plural of Principe) but " principi" is also the plural of " principio" : " principle". Obviously the former was intended as the context and all probability make clear. One can always say , well that ought to have been clear to the translator -to any translator worth his salt. But we must have sympathy with them given the demands of modern instant communication and especially the demands of handling these " off the cuff" remarks.

There are good reasons why  previous Pontiffs have adopted a more considered manner of making comments, and they have not been wrong.

But here the problem at its heart was translation and it was just not good enough, causing grave scandal. One can only hope that it will be promptly corrected, and the Holy Father better served in the future.



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