John Lilburne's journal about the new Roman Missal decree and differences between the publication in 2000 and that of 2002. 


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Decree and Differences

1330K Tue 16 April 2002

I am trying to reconcile the decree in the new Roman Missal with the differences between the texts of the Institutio Generalis published in 2000 with the one published in 2002.

The books I am comparing were both published by the Vatican: Librariae Editricis Vaticanae. The first book of 2000 (ISBN 88-209-7012-0) contained just the General Instruction. The book of 2002 (ISBN: 8820972719) is the Roman Missal, and includes the General Instruction.

There are differences between the two which I have discussed at length. For example, for Mass with only one minister the more recent book has the Sign of the Cross made after the kissing the altar. Things have been improved. That's good.

My problem is that I have seen no official explanation for the changes. The 2002 Roman Missal has a decree dated 20 April 2000, before the publication of the 2000 General Instruction, which was in about August 2000. I am quite confident of this translation of part of the decree:

Pope John Paul II approved on 10 April 2000 this third edition of the Roman Missal by his authority and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments now publishes it and declares it to be the editio typica.

Without an explanation or another decree there seem to be two unpalatable alternatives. Either:

Pope John Paul II did not approve the changes of the 2002 General Instruction and they are unauthorised modifications falsely claiming his approval of 10 April 2000.


The 2000 publication, which claims to accord with the 20 April 2000 decree on page 4, falsely claimed this approval.

I doubt either of these happened. I think after the publication of the book in 2000 concerns were expressed, such as in my Ministers in Masses, but also from bishops around the world. The Congregation decided improvements could be made, got the Pope's approval for them and published them.

Perhaps this was said at the 22 March 2002 Press Conference, I do not understand the Italian and have not found a translation.

But there is not a 2002 decree in the 2002 Roman Missal and I have not seen such an explanation.

Why not? Perhaps its an embarrassing situation: The Pope approved a new Roman Missal, it was not very good, we fixed it. What would have happened if he died the day after approving it? Fortunately that did not happen. We would have acted on his approval, unless another Pope disapproved or approved something else.

Perhaps there would be other difficult issues: When did the Pope change his approval? Why? How many versions were approved in 2001?

Perhaps the Pope approves a concept, rather than a detailed text. But at some stage there is a decree that must be associated with a text. My problem is that the 20 April 2000 decree is associated with two different texts. Differences that are beyond printing errors.

I think it would have been better if a more recent decree had been included in the 2002 Roman Missal. I hope I find an official explanation.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 16 April 2002.