Roma, 10 September 2005
Prot. N° 0000 268/2005
Greetings in the name of the General Council together with the promise of that you are remembered in our prayer!
During the course of the last several extraordinary meetings, but especially in the session that was held 1-10 September, the General Council has reflected on how to implement the decision of the XXIII General Chapter which reads:
That there be two (and only two) official languages of communication in the Congregation: English and Spanish. All candidates entering the Congregation (i.e. each novice) are obliged to learn one or the other; those candidates for whom English or Spanish is their native language are obliged to learn the other. All professed confreres are strongly encouraged to adopt a similar practice. (XXIII General Chapter, Decision n. 5).
The General Council believes that the Congregation is not prepared for a literal application of this decision, a strategy which would not accomplish the objectives for which the postulatum was proposed.
We asked ourselves about the spirit in which the Chapter had approved this decision, which undoubtedly had a positive intention: that of facilitating communication within the Congregation and during international meetings, especially the General Chapter itself. In addition, consideration was given to the benefits that would accrue to the units through collaboration at the level of initial and continuing formation.
Nevertheless, we also saw some problems that could arise in the implementation of such a decision at this time. This issue was practically the last matter to be voted upon and our impression is that the General Chapter did not have the means or sufficient time to reflect on the real difficulties that would be met in carrying out this decision. Perhaps the Chapter did not give adequate consideration to the fact that general trends of globalization are not uniform or, even less, peaceful and at times provoke a bias in favor of particular cultures and languages judged to be less important. It may also be true that insufficient thought was given to the fact that, unlike some religious families, over the last century we have undergone a progressive decentralization, which has consequences also in the question of “languages”.
In the light of such deliberation, the General Council believes that the following policy of implementing decision 5 of the XXIII General Chapter is appropriate:
1. Steps to be taken immediately
a. All Units will provide a course in English or Spanish for all candidates in initial formation; this course should last at least three years. Candidates whose mother tongue is either English or Spanish are required to study the other language.
b. English-speaking candidates in Africa shall study French instead of Spanish, in the hope of improving communication within the Region itself.
c. Insofar as possible, we encourage all confreres who do not speak English or Spanish to learn one of these two languages.
d. Insofar as possible, we recommend to all Redemptorists the study of Italian, the language of our Founder and of our sources.
e. While we thank those Units who already share academic, financial and personnel resources aimed at language instruction, we sincerely hope that others will follow the example of such cooperation.
f. The Communicanda, Ratio and other official documents of the General Government will still be published in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, German and Polish.
g. Meetings that are sponsored by the General Government will give consideration to the real situation of the participants and provide for sufficient translation.
h. It is our intention to continue to provide for translations in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, German and Polish on both the official web site of the Congregation and the electronic newsletter Scala. However, we are aware that this commitment will be possible only as long as there is cooperation from the Provinces and a sufficient supply of translators.
2. In view of the next General Chapter
a. It seems to us that the spirit of the decision of the XXIII General Chapter foresees the use of two languages, English and Spanish, for the next General Chapter.
b. We plan to discuss fraternally this whole question during the course of the regional meetings at the midpoint of the sexennium and those immediately before the next General Chapter, taking whatever further steps seem appropriate.
c. The next General Chapter will evaluate the whole matter and enact the decisions it believes to be appropriate for the following sexennium.
With the hope that – beyond the differences in language that sometimes separate us – the common language of charity will strengthen our brotherhood and fidelity to the vocation we have received from the Lord, I greet you cordially
In Christ the Redeemer,
Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.