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Vatican takes cue from Jews on God’s name

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The Vatican has reiterated that the tetragrammaton, or four-letter name of God, is not to be pronounced in Catholic liturgy.

The Catholic news agency Zenit reported this week that Bishop Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, issued a note informing priests of this directive. Serratelli said the official liturgy would not be affected, but the ban would have “some impact” on some hymns and other texts.

A message June 29 from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments traced the history of the ban and noted that the first Christians, following Jewish practice, did not pronounce the four-letter name.

“The venerable biblical tradition of sacred Scripture, known as the Old Testament, displays a series of
divine appellations, among which is the sacred name of God revealed in a tetragrammaton YHWH – hwhw,” the message said. “As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: ‘Adonai,’ which means ‘Lord.’ “

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