Auckland diocese liturgy advisor Marcelles Amiatu has been appointed by Samoan Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga to head a newly-established national liturgy office in the Pacific nation, and to lead the translations of the Roman Missal and the sacramental books from English to Samoan.

Mr Amiatu said he was both “shocked and happy”, when the archbishop approached him (Mr Amiatu) with the proposal.

“There was no dialogue in the lead up to this,” Mr Amiatu recalled.

“Once the greeting was done, he (Archbishop Mataeliga) said, ‘right’ and launched straight into it. I was shocked and happy that he thought of someone like me to go across and undertake such an appointment.”

Mr Amiatu said the Roman Missal and sacramental books currently being used in Samoa were based on the translation done by the late Cardinal Pio Taofinu’u, SM, in 1976.

“They are about 46 years behind,” he said.

The idea of a new Samoan translation came about after Pope Francis issued his motu proprio, Magnum Principium in 2017.

“It pretty much simplified the translation process. That played a big role in this. That was the big stepping stone,” he said.

Mr Amiatu said for the better part of the last quarter of 2019, he had been working on the sacramental books of baptism and confirmation. The new translations are now awaiting the approval of Archbishop Mataeliga and Samoa-Pago Pago Bishop Peter Brown, CSsR.

Mr Amiatu said their approach to translations are a little different from the way other countries do them.

“A lot of the countries that I know of that had books revised or retranslated, they start with the Order of the Mass and everything flows on from there. Whereas, the instruction that I got from the archbishop was to start at the sacraments, the baptism, the confirmation,” he explained.

He does not see major changes in the current Missal, saying in the current one, “the words are already beautiful”.

“The responses of the faithful might need to be changed,” he said explaining that the response “And with your spirit” might be translated to “Ma lou agaga”.

“Before you can even start translating the Missal, you have to let Rome know first that Samoa’s going to start translations and they will send across the information that we’ll need to translate from which means now we can translate faithfully rather than literally,” he said.

Mr Amiatu said he hopes to continue a close relationship with the Auckland Liturgy Centre.

“The Liturgy Centre in Auckland is the closest to Samoa. You’ll find that all the other places would only have liturgy desks, but not an actual resource centre that we have (in Auckland). So, there’ll still be a lot of connection between where I am going and here in Auckland for resources,” he said.

He hopes to be able to expand to translation of the encyclicals of Pope Francis to bring the Pope’s messages to the people.

“The (Samoan) people don’t really get to read them (encyclicals),” he said. “Having English as a second language is a bit of a barrier.”

He said the only time the faithful would learn of a papal encyclical would be when their priest preaches about it.

“I want to bring the people of Samoa closer to the Church by allowing them to have resources in their mother language,” Mr Amiatu said.

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