For the multitude

The following July 26  story appeared on the La Stampa/VaticanInsider website.

Benedict XVI

The words pronounced by Jesus at the Last Supper to turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ are the most sacred words in the liturgy. In the original Greek version of the Gospels, the blood was poured “for many” (“pollon” in Greek) and so it was translated in Latin as “pro multis”. But in the reform implemented after the Second Vatican Council, “pro multis” was translated as “for all”.

In 2006, a year after Ratzinger’s election, the Congregation for Divine Worship invited bishops’ conferences to update new versions of the missal with the correct translation. Many countries have already made the change from “for all” to “for many”: Hungary, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia. Churches that celebrate the Eucharist in English have also replaced “for all” to “for many”.

In Italy a vote was held on the matter during the general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference in Assisi, in November 2010. Here, 171 out of 187 individuals voted in favour of keeping “for all”. The main reason given was that in some languages “for many” seems to contrast with “for all” almost as if the universal call for salvation and Christ’s sacrifice were not intended for everyone. Though it is a gratuitous gift, that gift needs to be accepted by the person who receives it.

In Italian especially, the change could appear limiting, giving the impression that Jesus’ sacrifice and the salvation offered to man was not intended for everyone. A suggestion for how to overcome this obstacle is offered in a book by Biblicist Francesco Pieri from the Diocese of Bologna entitled: “Per una moltitudine. Sulla traduzione delle parole eucaristiche” (“For many. On the translation of Eucharistic words”) (published by Dehoniana Libri, 48 pages, Euro 4,50)

Although the academic agrees with efforts to remain faithful to the original text, he does not believe that the Italian translation “For many” is an ideal solution. He shares the view of individuals such as Biblicist Albert Vanhoye, who was created cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2006.

According to Vanhoye, the Jewish word “rabbim” interpreted as “pollon” in Greek means “a great number” without any specification as to whether this refers to a totality. Pieri therefore proposes the adoption, in Italian, of the solution French bishops have opted for: “pour la multitude”, “for the multitude” or – and this is the tile of his short essay – “for a multitude”. This would ensure a faithful translation of the Evangelical text and would prevent the replacement of “for many” with “for all” from giving the wrong idea of Christ’s salvation not being universal.

To read original story, click here.


  1. The only importance of this issue is to highlight the incredible lack of understanding and teaching in our era. “For all” or “for many”: the interpretation of this depends on “poured out”. What does it mean that Jesus’ Blood was poured out? That is what is critical.

    • The context of “poured out” is the liturgical assembly and refers to those who are or will be worshipping at Mass and receiving the Sacrament. IT IS NOT A DOCTRINAL STATEMENT ABOUT THE UNIVERSAL INTENTION OF THE SAVIOR.
      CHRIST DIED FOR ALL, BUT NOT ALL WILL BE PRESENT AT THE MASS WHICH RE-PRESENTS THAT OBLATION FOR THOSE ATTENDING. Thus for a great many or pollon or multis. Christ is speaking to THOSE PRESENT AT THE LAST SUPPER AND FOR ALL THOSE WHO WILL BE PRESENT AT THE MASS UNTIL THE SECOND COMING. Not every one who has been or will be saved will have attended the Eucharist, Many in this context and not all.

  2. For many is correct, for if Christ had died for all there would not be any role for free will in salvation. If you do not accept the narrow path of our shepherd you will not be saved. For this reason salvation is not for all. We must earn it.

    • Bravo, Gratias!! You wrote exactly what I was going to say.
      Why don’t we just go back to the way the Mass was said for hundreds of years before Vatican 2 and we wouldn’t be having these issues.
      People used to know what it meant to be Catholic and you wouldn’t have this disparity of what it means. Now it is ala carte. Take what you want and disregard the rest and then skip right up to the Communion rail…ooops I forgot they took that out.

    • John F. Maguire says:

      True, FOR MANY is the correct translation, also the correct theological meaning, of PRO MULTIS, but whoa! Gratias — you add a clause to your post that undercuts the truth that Christ indeed and indeed died for ONE AND ALL. You write, “…for if Christ had died for all there would not be any role for free will in salvation.” Wait a minute — IF Christ HAD died for ALL? ~ In reply, Gratius, I am bound to say that Christ DID die for ALL. So let’s keep in mind the crucial distinction at stake here. That distinction is stated by the Catechism of the Council of Trent, popularly called the Roman Catechism. Quote: “Looking to the EFFICACY of the Passion, we believe that the Redeemer shed his blood for all men; but looking to the ADVANTAGES which mankind derive from its efficacy, we find at once that they are not extended to the whole, but to a large proportion of the human race….” It is this large proportion that is referenced by PRO MULTIS (FOR MANY), not the ONE AND ALL who
      are always already within Christ’s universal salvific will that EACH ONE and ALL be saved. So yes, Christ died for one and all, but the phrase
      FOR MANY — PRO MULTIS — is used not to refer to one and all as
      they are included within the universal salvific will of Christ; rather, the phrase FOR MANY — PRO MULTIS — refers to the FRUITS of Our Lord’s redemptive Sacrifice on Calvary. The possibility of damnation is therefore an open and real possibility.

  3. @Gratias: I think you misspeak when you suggest that we might somehow earn salvation. Christ alone is worthy, His life and death acceptable to the Father in reparation. We do not earn our salvation. We accept it from Christ’s loving hands with humility, in becoming one with Him through faith, His Sacraments and His Church. Salvation is only through Christ; we are called to be willing recipients and imitators of Our gracious Lord. We cannot “earn” a gift that is beyond human reckoning, eternal life and the vision of God. I think the point of precision in the translation is not about the number to be saved because God has not made anyone that He does not love, but the wording is important to acknowledge our recognition that not all will accept the precious and unmerited salvation we have been offered and many will fail to answer Christ’s universal call. This should be a goad to us to follow more carefully, with prayer, fasting and vigilance, the path that Christ and His saints have illuminated in order to exemplify our own acceptance of the Gospel and so keep this vision of faith and hope before the eyes of men. In that faithfulness lies true Christian charity, to live the Gospel that those who see will also see Christ and come to believe.

  4. Thank you for posting this article. It was interesting and informative.

  5. St. Christopher says:

    Do not be fooled by the academic “debate”. At issue is a last gasp of post-Vatican II “implementers” who wish to continue on the path to liturgical, and institutional, destruction that began with the implosion of the Mass of All Time as the norm. Behind the demand that Christ died “for all” is the belief that there is no sin, and, a fortiori, there is no punishment for sin: no meaningful prohibition on homosexual sex, on receiving the sacraments after a civil divorce, on contraception, on women as priests, and on and on. The reason for the fight is that this designation is vital to the understanding of what Christ did by accepting death on the cross. Christ said that all must take up their cross and follow him, not to continue to do what everyone wants. Christianity is supposed to be transformational, not endorsing. Look at the counties insisting on using “for all” — Italy, Germany and others with clergy that are often offensive to the Pope in their disobedience, including demands for the laundry list mentioned above. And, these countries fight to the death against having any TLM, an affront to the Pope and his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. Perhaps using a form of “multitudes” is acceptable, but the teaching of what Christ did and stands for, most particularly as a path to salvation, must be faithfully taught. What is the purpose of Catholicism at all if it is like a “communal meal” without the purpose of sacrifice? Damnation is real, as Christ himself said many, many times. The Incarnation opened the door for all, but not all will choose to accept it — Christ died, and completed the possibility of salvation — for those “many” that follow Him, and not those who refuse. That latter part, the reality of damnation, is too much for a good number of bishops to accept.

  6. Joel Fago says:

    “for the multitude” is ambigious. It is somewhere between “for all” and “for many.” “for the multitude” muddies the meaning. “for many” gives preachers the opportunity to emphasize the importance of free will.

    • John F. Maguire says:

      Your claim that the phrase “for the multitude” muddles the meaning of
      PRO MULTIS is well-taken, Joel. ~ In the first place, we cannot help but notice the definite article “the” in the (neoteric) formulation “for the multitude”. As we already know however, the translation of PRO MULTIS is FOR MANY — therefore not (a) “for THE many” nor (b) “for THE multitude” (emphasis mine). See Pope Benedict XVI, Letter PRO MULTIS to H. E. Msgr. Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiberg, President of the Episcopal Conference of Germany (April 14, 2012) (“Let me take the opportunity to point out that neither Matthew nor Mark uses the definite article, so it is not ‘for the many’, but ‘for many’.” In accord with Benedict’s scripture-based exlcusion of the definite article “the”, shouldn’t this same definite article be removed from “for the multitude”? ~ I’d say yes, but then what we have left is the sub-syntactical phrase “for multitude”. This awkwardness of this result is in the final analysis an additional reason why the entire phrase “for the multitude” should not be used in the Liturgy of the Mass. ~ Today as yesterday, the normative translation of PRO MULTIS is the phrase FOR MANY.

  7. Gratias: there is nothing any human being can do to EARN salvation. Salvation through Jesus Christ is a gift- His gift of himself through his life, passion, death and resurrection. We cannot earn His gift of Himself – which is love- but we can respond to His invitation to follow Him and to love Him with our lives.


    1741 By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. “For freedom Christ has set us free.” In him we have communion with the “truth that makes us free.” The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Already we glory in the “liberty of the children of God.”

    – we do not ‘earn’ salvation any more than we ‘earn’ our parents’ love, as both are a gift. we can, however, REJECT them and accept the consequences.

  9. As everyone of sophistication and erudition knows, how dare anyone but the Jesuits start a 20 year discussion and then tell the pope what is right! Baloney Sick of hearing the analysis of words that only change the meaning like the professors of Salamanca gas bagging!

  10. Scripture very clearly teaches that Jesus died for all (e.g., 2Cor 5:14-15) as does the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (e.g., para. 605, 982). The Greek word “pollon” certainly can carry the meaning of “a multitude of people” so the new English translation here is extremely sad and misleading. This fact is clear because some posters here have already been lead into error by by the new translation! Lex orandi, lex credendi. I guess we are all Calvinists now. God help us!

    • John F. Maguire says:

      The contrary is true, Dave: We as Catholics can NEVER subscribe to Calvinist heterodoxy. In this connection, let’s not miss the crucial distinction here. The phrase FOR MANY is normative in the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because, and just because, this phrase refers to the FRUIT of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, in respect to which FRUIT the most that the Church, with all due care and modesty, can say is: FOR MANY. Once this point is grasped, then it is easy to understand what every cognizant Catholic knows as a theological certitude, namely, that, at the same time and as distinguished from the matter of the FRUITS of Christ’s sacrifice, Christ’s WILL that ALL be saved is always already UNIVERSAL, which is also to say, the salvific will of Christ Jesus is, operatively, always already inclusive of ONE AND ALL.

      • Juergensen says:

        We as Catholics can also NEVER vote for an abortionist like Obama. But some do.

      • **just because, this phrase refers to the FRUIT of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice,**: Did you make this up, Maguire, or do you have a Magisterial declaration that this interpretation is true in all cases and all the time?

        • John F. Maguire says:

          Any blogger who rejects the distinction between Christ’s universal will that ALL be saved, on the one hand, and the Church’s acknowledgement, on the other hand, that as regards the FRUITS of Christ’s redemptive Sacrifice, the liturgy can refer properly only to the many (whence PRO MULTIS; FOR MANY) — yes indeed, make no mistake, any blogger who blinks away this distinction has lost intellectual contact the magisterial teaching of Holy Church. More specifically, any blogger who thinks that the Roman use of the word FRUITS in the field of catechesis is something “made up” by some lay blogger, for example by me, has never studied the matter in the first place — and, more than evidently, has never made requisite contact with the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent. That Catechism, we know, teaches: “Looking to the efficacy of the Passion, we believe that the Redeemer shed His blood for all men; but looking to the ADVANTAGES which mankind derive from its efficacy, we find at once that they are not extended to the whole, but to a large proportion of the human race…” This same Catechism is perfectly clear on the topic before us: “With great propriety were the words FOR ALL omitted [by Christ], because here the FRUIT of the passion alone is spoken of [by Christ], and to the elect only did his passion bring the fruit of salvation” (emphasis mine).

    • This has nothing to do with Calvinism as Christ can be said to have died for all (gave his life so all COULD be saved) but also died for many (those who would ACTUALLY ACCEPT him in some way). I think we should just leave it as it is now in our new translation, and stop bickering over it. The books are out, the words (for many) are in already.. We all know that when there is a new translation in the future, if there ever is, those people alive will be going through this discussion all over again. I, for one do not want to go through it again in this genreation. it is settled for me. End of discussion.

      • John F. Maguire says:

        Happily, the matter before us — namely, the objective need to translate the phrase PRO MULTIS in the Eucharistic Prayers of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as, and just as, FOR MANY (rather than FOR ALL) — has already been adjudicated by Pope Benedict XVI in his Letter PRO MULTIS addressed to His Excellency Monsignor
        Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiberg, President of the Episcopal Conference of Germany (April 14, 2012). Pope Benedict’s
        ruling reads: “In the place of the interpretive explanation ‘for all,’ the simple rendering ‘for many’ must appear.” ~ Why is this ruling of high import? The Eucharistic Prayers, we know, are at the very heart of the Church’s public worship. This is the reason, I submit, why all the personnel of the Church must needs, in Benedict’s words, cooperate in order to “circumvent a division of this [verbal] kind at the very at the very heart of our prayer.” Given this objective necessity, there remains a sense in which the discussion of the PRO MULTIS question is not ended. In the first place, as Benedict points out, wouldn’t the Bishops worldwide have to “help the priests, and through them the lay faithful, to understand exactly what this [re-translation] is about”? In the second place, isn’t it true that “Prior catechesis is the essential condition for adoption of the new translation”? Indeed, in this same context, Benedict draws our attention to another, even neuralgic, point. “As far as I know,” Benedict writes, “no such catechesis has yet taken place in the German-speaking world. The purpose of my letter is urgently to ask all of you, my dear Brother Bishops, to develop a catechesis of this kind, to DISCUSS it with priests and to make it available to the lay faithful” (emphasis mine).

  11. There is a lot of 24 Karat Martin Lutherisms in this posting! “May we be made worthy of the promises of Christ”. Christ’s actual words and actions are sobering, in the least. Only 1 of 10 lepers bothered to hear “thy faith hath made thee whole”, And He didn’t chase after those of his disciples who rejected the Real Presence, etc. In fact, Christ never placed the odds of making it to heaven very high. He opened the door that had been shut to mankind, it is clear, as we always heard, understood, and assented to pre VATII, that we do individually have to earn our way through it And did He not mention “Judgment” someplace?.

  12. It’s clearly both/and. We are given grace, and without grace freely given through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, there’d never be a chance for us to be granted eternal life. Through grace from the Holy Spirit we are able to work out our salvation. I know I must be converted every day. It’s never easy. It’s always both/and NEVER either/or. Faith without works is dead. “Your faith has healed you.”

  13. Leaving aside the authority of the Pope to settle such matters, as he has, in favor of “for many”, those who wish to change it should be asked to explain why, in their accounts of the Last Supper, both Matthew and Mark quote Christ as saying for many. It seems to me that that should be dispositive.

  14. Why debate what was long ago decided by the Church? The defined teaching is clear: “For many” are the exact words of Christ. Those are the words that appear in the Latin Vulgate–to this day, the only version of Scripture solemnly proclaimed by the Church to be free from error–and those are the words to be used in the Consecration. And besides, “for all” borders on heresy; rather than imparting the true teaching of the Church, it lends credence to the Protestant theology of universal salvation.

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