April 4, 2011

My Translation of the Patriarchal Decree Against Vassula Ryden

A few days ago I received an anonymous email telling me to correct my translation of the patriarchal decree denouncing Vassula Ryden, which can be read here along with the original Greek below it. The email simply said: "Attached is a more correct translation of the announcement of The Ecumenical Patriarchate... Please post this correct one......" They thus offered me an alternative translation to post which for the most part was similar to mine though certain words were more an interpretation rather than a literal translation.

Of particular interest to this person (or people) was that I correct the two lines which I translated as "rejects from the Mother Church Vasiliki Paraskevis Pentaki" and "who henceforth are not admitted to ecclesiastical communion". Essentially they thought my translation was too strong, and that a more accurate translation would in fact deflate the intensity of the statement. Of the first they wrote in a footnote: "In the original Greek text, the word αποδοκιμάζω means disapproved, not reject." Of the second they wrote: "The Greek word κοινωνίαν does not mean Holy Communion (Eucharist), but communion in the sense of community."

Now I don't consider myself a Greek scholar in any sense, but I do know Greek good enough to be able to translate things. I do make errors and always welcome corrections. For example, after I published my translation of this decree on my blog the day after it was issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a few days later I received an email telling me that I made an error in one word in my translation. It was in the last paragraph where I translated: "We express, lastly, the profound sorrow of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the acts of nine...." The number "nine" was pointed out to me to be a mistranslation of ἐνίων, which is an ancient Greek word thrown into the text and would be better translated as "some". Glad to be corrected in my error, I made the correction.

However, the correction offered to me did not sound reasonable, especially in the context of the decree. There was obviously an agenda at play here by a sympathizer of Vassula. This is the letter with which I responded to the anonymous email:

I think your translation is more interpretation than an exact translation. For example, your translation of λαμπρόν as "glorious" is a mistranslation. "Shining" or "bright" is more accurate. Also, Ὑπό τό πνεῦμα τοῦτο is not "In this light" but rather "In this spirit". There are others, but I hope you see my point.

Your first footnote is a bit too soft compared to the literal translation. I would agree however that the word "denounced" is more accurate and will change this.

Your second footnote is a copy of my translation, where the meaning is both communal and sacramental, as one cannot be separated from the other.

I accept corrections on translations I make as I usually do them very quickly and without an editor, but my approach is to always provide literal translations (especially on official texts) rather than try to interpret the spirit of something which often leads to rewriting a text.

Thank you,


I received no response.

This morning I received an email from a woman named Maria Laura Pio who runs the website http://www.infovassula.ch/. She is an ex-follower of Vassula and the website is critical of her teachings and activities primarily from a Roman Catholic perspective. Maria expressed her appreciation for my translation and even had it checked by a Greek friend of hers. She further told me the following: "As was to be expected, and following the same logic used to twist the Vatican documents, Mrs Ryden's association is not only challenging the validity of the decree, but they are also internally circulating a different translation of it." This put everything in better perspective for me.

In the email was included the translation, though it was a bit different from what was sent to me. They in fact took my advice and made the text closer to a literal translation in the parts I mentioned, but they still altered the words and meaning they particularly asked me to change in the footnotes to their text.

It should be noted as well that it seems Vassula is not only denying her denouncement and excommunication, but even the validity of the decree itself. Introducing the text of their translation there is written as an introduction the following:

An announcement has appeared on the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Constantinople) regarding Vassula and True Life in God. A translation is copied at the bottom of this email.

Vassula states that the document is not signed nor does it contain the seal that it comes from the Patriarch himself. Normally the Patriarch signs it and adds his seal with his signature. Nevertheless, Vassula believes that the Patriarch will be aware of the document.

As in the case of the Notification of 1995 from the Vatican, there has been no dialogue between the Patriarchate and Vassula. Vassula invites all who read and love the True Life in God messages to write and complain to Patriarch Bartholomew at the following address:

His All Holiness Bartholomew
Archbishop of Constantinople
Rum Patrikhanesi,
342 20 Fener- Haliç
Istanbul, Turkey

The document however was in fact issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is posted on their official website. Vassula and her followers are seeking to soften and deny this reality. The reality however is clearly written in the official document which I translated here.