From “lead us not into temptation” to “abandon us not to temptation”, a new version of the Our Father prayer is being introduced in Italy.

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Speaking January 28 to the Italian edition of Vatican News, theologian and Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto Bruno Forte announced that the new edition of the Lord’s Prayer – the prayer Jesus himself taught his disciples, according to the Gospels – will be in new editions of Italian Missals printed after Easter.

Although the change will come to Mass books from that date, it won’t come into effect until the beginning of the Church’s year in Advent, in November 2020, Forte explained.

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The reason for the change – in translation – to the most famous Christian prayer, Forte said, was due to a desire for “fidelity to the intentions expressed by the prayer of Jesus and to the Greek original”.

“In reality, the Greek original uses a verb which literally means ‘bring us, lead us’. The Latin translation inducere could evoke its Greek homologue.

“But, in Italian indurre means ‘to push’… in essence, ‘to make this happen’. And it is strange that we can say to God ‘do not push us to fall into temptation’.

“In short, the translation with ‘lead us not into temptation’ was not faithful”, clarified the Chieti-Vasto archbishop, a member of the International Theological Commission in the Vatican for several years.

Why it matters

A more faithful translation of the Our Father prayer is “a question that episcopates all over the world have also asked themselves”, Forte told Vatican News, rejecting the charge that the Italian Bishops were inventing a new prayer unto themselves.

And indeed, the Pope himself has advocated for and even used the new translation now adopted by the Italian Bishops, as recently as the new ‘Sunday of the Word of God’ last weekend.

The ‘lead us not into temptation’ in English and its equivalents in other languages “is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation”, Francis told Italian TV in 2017.

“A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation – that’s his department”.

Archbishop Forte backed the Pope’s thinking in his presentation of the new translation of the Our Father prayer, saying: “The verb that corresponds to [temptation] must be a verb that makes it clear that ours is a God who helps, who helps us not to fall into temptation. Not a God who tends to trap us in any way. This is an absolutely unacceptable idea”.

The French Bishops followed the Pope’s advice and changed the wording of that language’s Lord’s Prayer in 2017, but both the German Bishops and the English and Welsh Bishops have rejected making changes to their versions up until now.

For the record

That German, English and Welsh resistance is a show of the resistance the tinkering with the treasury of the Church’s traditional prayers can produce, even with the Pope’s backing.

Lecturer in biblical and religious studies at Sheffield University Meredith Warren, for example, told The Guardian in 2017 of the Pope’s version of the Our Father prayer: “This new version of the Lord’s Prayer tries to avoid implying that God has some hand in evil.

“But in doing so the Pope not only overlooks the many biblical examples where God works with the devil to tempt his followers and even his own son. The new version actually goes against the plain meaning of the Greek of the gospel text”.

Austrian theologian Paul Zulehner, however, backed the Italian Bishops’ adoption of the new Lord’s Prayer translation this week, saying that Christians should “be absolutely sure: God loves people and does not want them to perish”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.