The New Lectionary is Dead – † RIP

The silence over the last year on the new lectionary’s progress has been unsettling. We had it from the Chairman of ICPELL himself that the new lectionary would make use of the ESV Bible, a revision of the RSV originally authorized for vernacular worship back in the mid-60s, and that things were advancing to the point that we might even this year see a first volume published. Then he, and everyone else, went quiet.

Br Tony Jukes SSS has discovered the reason for the silence. He has come across a statement from the Education Officer for Liturgy of the Archdiocese of Brisbane (Australia), Mrs Elizabeth Harrington, that explains all. It can be trusted as the Archbishop of Brisbane is (oops! was)  the Chairman of ICPELL. She gives a valuable and balanced summary of the dynamics of the process over the last decade, and comes to this climax:

After 10 years of unsuccessful efforts by ICPELL, it became apparent that the whole lectionary project was in serious jeopardy. It had proved impossible to find a lectionary that suits the Holy See, the copyright holders of the scripture translations, and bishops’ conferences. Another issue was that the Revised Grail psalms, which were planned to be part of the revised lectionary, have also lost support in some quarters.

At the end of 2013 the decision was made to dismantle ICPELL and leave each conference of bishops to make its own decision regarding a lectionary for Mass. Consequently, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference agreed to discontinue its involvement in the international lectionary project and to reprint the existing lectionary. It would contain a slightly modified version of the Jerusalem Bible currently in use and the Grail translation of the responsorial Psalms.

The general opinion is that some poor translations in the Jerusalem Bible are easily remedied and that other required changes to the text can be made fairly quickly.

So the cat is out of the bag. ICPELL is dead. Each bishops’ conference will make its own provision. For a start, we know now what the Australian bishops propose to do. The often unsuitable Jerusalem Bible will be retained, though with some attempt to remedy its “poor translations”. The New Grail Psalms are to be abandoned and the old Grail retained. Finally, they hope to have the new lectionary ready for the end of 2014 (the First Sunday of Advent I presume).


Most probably the bishops of England and Wales will not depart much from the Australian plan.

This will be something of a blow to some in the Reform of the Reform movement. For liberals and traditionalists, to use those sweeping labels for brevity’s sake, this development is probably welcome. The former tend to like the current lectionary as it is; the latter have their eyes firmly on the Vetus Ordo and its vastly different lectionary.

One factor in the demise of ICPELL might be the desire of Pope Francis to devolve as much as he can to local bishops’ conferences. ICPELL was not a curial body as such but it did represent centralization of sorts, and that is no longer encouraged.

It would have been nice to have heard it from someone more responsible in this matter than a diocesan education officer (though we must be grateful to her).

We could always Revive ’65.

**NB: the new lectionary was never envisaged for North America. Both the USA and Canada already have their own lectionaries in place. The new arrangement has at least the virtue of being consistent with what has happened in North America.**

14 thoughts on “The New Lectionary is Dead – † RIP

  1. Fr. Hugh: thanks for the interesting details. We here in Ireland have traditionally (since 1965 and into the NO period up to now) used the same versions as England, Wales & Scotland, and I think Australia & NZ, so whatever emerges there will undoubtedly apply here as well – or at least going on past form it will.

    But I can’t quite agree that for all “traditionalists” this will be welcome. There are many of us of a “traditional” and Vetus Ordo-loving inclination for whom the NO is the only available option most of the time, and I certainly (and many others I know) would have welcomed the updated RSV being introduced in place of the clunking banality we have endured since 1970. It would have complemented the new translations so well, I think. But it’s lipstick on the pig time, it seems 😦


    1. Hi there!

      Well, I would not claim that all traditionalists would welcome the development, but for those who see the NO as having gone down the wrong path then many would at least be neutral about the demise of the new lectionary. Some will see it as a positive step towards restoring fully the EF; others will lament it as a blow to mutual enrichment between the EF and OF.

      You are quite right that in the past the non-North American anglophone bishops’ conferences have pretty much adopted the same vernacular books. They may well continue to do so for efficiency’s sake: the more copies of a lectionary that can be printed the cheaper it will become. It would also facilitate some degree of commonality, if not universality, among the anglophone churches.

      However, some conferences may seize the opportunity to assert their independence in the name of adaptation to local circumstances. In that case we could see even more versions of anglophone lectionaries floating about. Maybe some will plump for the NRSV like Canada. Most likely the status quo will largely prevail, with a little cosmetic work here and there.

      Say your prayers!



  2. ICPELL, rather like GIRM, conjures up images for me of nefarious plots leading to results somehow injurious to health or well-being on some level, though of course I am all in favor of good translations and liturgical guidelines themselves. Perhaps I just need the heartfelt chuckle such acronyms cause me. Meanwhile, as for ‘Revive ’65’, I keep thinking there should be a religious community or fraternity of some kind which not only uses the Missal of 1965 and associated sacramental and other prayer forms exclusively, but makes more precise implementation of the actual intentions and decisions of the Council Fathers a principal part of its raison d’être. Why not? After all, such groups exist for those who favor the rites as they existed in 1962.


    1. I had hoped that the presence of “Pell” in the acronym might have helped it to fare better.Alas not.

      As for your suggestion about a community employing the books of 1965, I quite agree – why not?! Surely it would be in the “spirit” of the Council?



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