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By Daniel Burke
c. 2008 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are expected to approve a new set of translations for the Mass and a policy statement on embryonic stem cell research at an upcoming meeting in Orlando, Fla.
More than 240 bishops from across the country will gather to vote on policy and pray in private sessions at the semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops June 12-14.
Catholic bishops have publicly condemned embryonic stem cell research for at least 14 years, testifying in Congress and lobbying politicians, said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USCCB’s secretariat for pro-life activities.
But they’ve never produced a statement on the issue approved by the full body of U.S. bishops, he said, a hole that will be filled at this year’s meeting.
“We thought it was long overdue,” Doerflinger said.
The proposed policy statement lists some of the common arguments in favor of embryonic stem cell research, including its potential to find life-saving cures for degenerative diseases.
But the bishops’ proposed seven-page statement counters by insisting that “the human embryo, from conception onward, is as much a living member of the species as any of us.” Embryonic stem cell research commonly destroys the embryo.
“The suffering of patients and families affected by devastating illness deserves our compassion and our committed response, but not at the cost of our respect for life itself,” a draft of the proposed statement says.
Doerflinger said the policy statement will be published in brochures and distributed to dioceses in states across the country, where public funding for embryonic stem cell research has been placed on referenda in the past.
The bishops are also expected to endorse new translations aimed at greater fidelity to the original Latin of prayers reserved for various seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter) as well as other holy days during the liturgical year.
Monsignor Anthony Sherman, executive secretary of the USCCB’s office of divine worship, said most of the prayers, known as “propers,” are spoken by priests at the Mass. The new translations add material dropped when the Mass began to be celebrated in English in the 1970s after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he said.
“As much content as possible has been retrieved,” he said. “We’re basically going back to the original.”
In 2006, the bishops approved new translations of the Order of the Mass, which includes many of the prayers said by laypeople at daily Masses.
The Vatican-ordered translations have irked some U.S. bishops, who consider the new language stilted and difficult to comprehend. But the Vatican insists that much was lost in the rush to produce an English-language Mass more than three decades ago.
More rounds of prayer translations are expected, Sherman said, and implementation in U.S. parishes is likely several years away.
The bishops will also hear a report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life on its “religious landscape” survey, released earlier this year. The survey found that 33 percent of native-born U.S. Catholics leaves the faith, but those losses are offset by a flood of Latino immigrants.
And researchers working on a “causes and contexts” study of the church’s clergy sexual abuse crisis will present a progress update of their findings.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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