Catholic Church in Kenya Sets Date to Phase Out Old Liturgical Book for Priests

Fr. Paul Ndungu of Kenya's Nyahururu Diocese (right), the first Priest to purchase the newly published Swahili Liturgical Books on 14 August 2021 at the Paulines Communication Centre in Nairobi, pose for a photo alongside two Daughters of St Paul, Sr. Clara Zaniboni (next to Fr. Paul) and Sr. Metrine Nafula (between two customers). Credit: Sr. Olga Massango/Daughters of St Paul, Nairobi

The newly released Misale ya Kiroma (Roman Missal) is set to become “obligatory” in celebrating Holy Mass towards the end of this year, phasing out the old one, Catholic Bishops Kenya have said in a preliminary page of the new Swahili Missal.

In a letter signed by former chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Archbishop Philip Anyolo, Catholic Bishops in Kenya permit the use of Misale ya Kiroma “upon publication” but say that Priests will be required to use the new liturgical book as from the First Sunday of Advent this year.

According to KCCB members, the newly translated Liturgical book has been approved by the Vatican and is therefore “the typical edition” for the celebration of the Eucharist in the East African country.

Bishop Joseph Obanyi of Kenya's Kakamega Diocese holding the newly published Swahili Missal, Misale ya Kiroma (Roman Missal) during the display of the new Liturgical Books to the Permanent Council of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) on 17 August 2021 at Donum Dei, Karen, Nairobi/ Credit: Sr. Olga Massango/Daughters of St. Paul

“This new translation was approved by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and has received the needed confirmation of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament on 28 December 2020,” Catholic Bishops in Kenya say in a letter attached to the book that was received by the Paulines Publications Africa on August 14.


They add, “Therefore, in accord with the norms established by the Holy See, this edition of the Misale ya Kiroma is declared to be the definitive approved Swahili translation of the Roman Missal, and it is, the ‘typical edition’ for the celebration of the Eucharist in the Dioceses of Kenya.”

“The new Misale ya Kiroma may be used upon publication. Its use will be obligatory from the First Sunday of Advent, 28 November 2021,” KCCB members direct.

In a Wednesday, August 18 interview with ACI Africa, the Directress of Paulines Publications, Sr. Praxides Nafula said that several Dioceses in Kenya had already made orders for Misale ya Kiroma, a guide for Priests and Misale ya Kila Siku (Daily Missal), a liturgical book that provides daily readings, which was published alongside the Priests’ guide.

Newly published Liturgical books in Swahili language. Credit: Paulines Publication Africa

Sr. Nafula explained that Misale ya Kila Siku comes with various new features pertaining to the Order of Mass, including the proper translations of the Roman Missal that adhere to the Latin edition, daily readings, and the calendar of African saints. All these are aspects that had been omitted in previous Swahili translations of the Liturgical book.

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Misale ya Kiroma, on the other hand, is a Swahili guide for Priests with the distinguishing feature of new musical sounds to match the new Swahili translations, among other key features, Sr. Nafula said.

In their letter, Catholic Bishops in Kenya laud liturgical teams from KCCB and the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) for their collaboration with the Paulines Publications Africa in realizing “the long-awaited publication of the new Misale ya Kiroma.”

“The publication of the new Swahili translation of The Roman Missal (Misale ya Kiroma) is a significant milestone for the Catholic Church in Kenya and an occasion for great joy in the Lord,” the Bishops say.

They add, “Aware that the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is the primary and indispensable source from which we are to derive our true Christian spirit, the decision was taken to embark on a complete revision of the Misale ya Kiroma in order to adapt it to the 3rd Typical Latin Edition, to renew its language and to insert the celebrations of the Proper Calendar for the Dioceses of Kenya.”

“This beautiful edition of the Misale ya Kiroma is the crowning of several years of hard work carried out by the Liturgical Commissions of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) and Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC),” KCCB members further say in the letter signed by the Archbishop of Kisumu.


They continue, “The end result of this joint venture is, certainly, praiseworthy, and we would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to all those who have worked with competence and dedication to offer our Christian communities a fresh translation of the Misale ya Kiroma and enable them to celebrate the Eucharist with renewed faith, joy and greater participation.”

They say that the long-awaited publication of the new Misale ya Kiroma is a true moment of grace for the Catholic Church in Kenya, as it will lead members of the Clergy and the Catholic faithful alike to a full, conscious and active participation in the Eucharist.

According to the Catholic Bishops in Kenya, the celebration of the Eucharist with the new Missal will be carried out not only through a more prayerful and devout celebration of the Mass, but also through homilies and catechesis on the meaning of Holy Mass and its centrality in our Christian life.

In a letter from the leadership of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, which was addressed to Archbishop Anyolo and other Catholic Bishops in Kenya, the Vatican acknowledged the hard work that went into the translation of the Roman Missal into Swahili, reiterating Sr. Nafula’s observation that the process had been lengthy and challenging.

Screenshot of the Directress of Paulines Publications Africa, Sr. Praxides Nafula. Credit: Paulines Publications Africa

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“I am well aware that this has been a long process, beginning with your letter of 18 August 2016, and I once again thank Your Excellency and your brother Bishops for their forbearance in this matter. However, it is our view that the end result is one which will stand the test of time and which will be an example of how to go about the challenging task of translating the books of the Roman Rite into local languages,” the Vatican officials stated.

In the letter, the officials of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament further lauded the collaboration between KCCB and TEC liturgical teams.

From left Fr. Enda Murphy of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Fr. Rinaldo Ronzani, General Editor for Liturgical books for Paulines Publications Africa, Archbishop Arthur Roche, the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, Sr. Teresa Marcazzan of the Daughters of St. Paul, former Director of Paulines Publications Africa. Credit: Fr. Salvador Aguilera López.

“One particular aspect of this process which is noteworthy has been the collaboration between the Episcopal Conferences of Kenya and Tanzania,” the Vatican officials said, and added, “This has helped to ensure a uniform text, especially when it comes to the Order of Mass. This type of cooperation is to be praised and we would encourage it to continue as other liturgical books are translated.”

In the August 18 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Nafula noted that in one of the criticisms the members of the Daughters of St. Paul who run the Paulines Publications of Africa had received concerning the Daily Missal, people had wanted the Rites of the Sacraments to be included, a request that the Nairobi-based Sister said was not possible.

“People have said that they wanted the Rites of the Sacrament of Confirmation and other sacraments included in this edition of the Roman Missal. This is not possible because the book would be too large,” the Directress of Paulines Publications said.

“Again, the document on the Rites of the Sacraments has not been fully approved. It is an ongoing process and once we are done, we shall have another book only for the Rites,” the official of the Catholic publishing firm said.

Sr. Nafula further expressed gratitude to organizations that contributed towards the Swahili translation of the liturgical books. Those she named include Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, the Diocese of Cologne in Germany, Missio Aachen, and Propaganda Fide.

The Kenyan-born Sister urged the people of God in Kenya and in Tanzania where the new liturgical books will also be used to embrace significance of the new translations in the books.

“It is not enough to just know the words and phrases that have been translated. It is important to also understand their significance, to know how they speak to your faith,” Sr. Nafula said, adding that members of her Congregation have already embarked on creating awareness on the use of the new liturgical books in Catholic Parishes across Kenya.

Meanwhile, Paulines Publications Africa is working on a number of other initiatives, including a document for youth Catechism, a project that has received a major boost from ACN, a revised Biblia ya Kiafrika (African Bible), and a Paulines Bible translated directly from Greek to English.

“What we have today is from the American Catholic Bishops, meaning that we don’t have the rights that we can offer to a third party. Once we translate our own Bible directly from Greek, we shall possess such rights,” the member of the Daughters of St. Paul told ACI Africa August 18.

Paulines Publications Africa is also working on a book that addresses cyberbullying and other challenges of the youth in the age of the Internet.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.