5.A.6 Interpreters and Translators in Liturgical Celebrations

1. Care is to be taken to certify the trustworthiness and qualifications of all interpreters and translators. [1]

2. In the case of sacramental confession, the norms of #5.4.2 Use of Interpreter and Writing in Confession are to be observed. In all other cases, the Guidelines for Interpreters at the Celebration of Mass and Other Sacraments (February 2002) are to be observed. [2]

3. It is recommended that interpretation by sign language and assistive technology be provided when the deaf and hard of hearing participate in celebrations of the sacraments and other acts of divine worship.

4. When an act of divine worship is celebrated in a vernacular language that is unintelligible to a significant number of those present, it is recommended that worship aids be prepared to assist their full, conscious and active participation.

   a. The readings may be proclaimed in the language known to them according to an approved liturgical text.

   b. If no priest or deacon competent in that language is present, the gospel of a Mass may be read from an approved liturgical text by a lay person. Under this same condition, an interpreter may translate the homily simultaneously or consecutively. It may also be translated into a written text which may be read by a lay person. [3]

5. Interpreters must never appear to imitate the role of the presider or celebrant, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. They are not to attempt to repeat the words proper to the celebrant, especially at the celebration of the Eucharist, nor to imitate the liturgical gestures which are proper to the celebrant.

   a. Those who interpret from one spoken language to another are never to stand adjacent to the altar, and should be positioned so that all present maintain a clear view of the liturgical action. (The position of signing interpreters is addressed in the Guidelines above.)

   b. If the gospel is read or if the homily translated or read as above, the reader or interpreter may stand at the ambo.

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition: “Interpreters convert one spoken language into another - or, in the case of sign-language interpreters, between spoken communication and sign language...Translators convert written materials from one language into another.” 

[2] Diocese of Lansing, Guidelines for Interpreters at the Celebration of Mass and Other Sacraments (February 2002). Available at diocesan website.  Also see USCCB, Guidelines For the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities (rev. 2017).

[3] See discussion in John Huels, Studia Canonica 39 [2005] pp. 68-69.

Date approved by Bishop

Posted by
Msgr. S. J. Raica, chancellor