Pope’s English Translator, Braces for the U.S. Spotlight


Sep 22, 2015 / by Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen


From the New York Times...


Article Excerpt: ROME — On a blustery day in January this year, Pope Francis appeared before thousands of worshipers in Tacloban City, the Philippines, and asked for permission to give his address in Spanish.


“I have a translator [sic.], a good translator. May I do that? May I?” he asked in heavily accented English. When the crowd cheered its approval, Msgr. Mark Miles — a trim, bespectacled official from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State — discreetly materialized at the pope’s side and began expertly echoing the pope’s speech in English, keeping time with his pauses and his expressiveness, too.


The pope did not want to use a “professional translator that hides in the wings and is only a voice,” said Cindy Wooden, the Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service and the author of a recent book on Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila. Instead, Francis went out of his way to show “affection and esteem for Monsignor Miles” because the pope wanted to be able to speak from his heart, Ms. Wooden said.


Link to the full article HERE.


InterpretAmerica's Take: This article from the New York Times published in the days leading up to the pontiff's arrival in the United States for his first official visit sheds light on the intimate human nature of communication and the often unique interpretation needs of religious and spiritual leaders who do not speak the same language as their fellow faithful. Frequently, those called upon to interpret for spiritual leaders are drawn from the same faith as their principal, since each belief system's doctrines and sacred texts can be as foreign as another language to someone not of the same faith. These interpreters may or may not have training but what they do have is an intimate understanding of their faith.📷

Similarly, religious leaders wish to ensure that they are both understood and that they are able to connect with the congregants of their faith on a spiritual level, and having a trusted and faithful fellow believer to interpret helps achieve that, especially when speaking of spiritual things, as was the case when Msgr. Mark Miles was called upon to interpret earlier this year in the Philippines. More often than not, these "religious" interpreters offer their time and talents free of charge as a way furthering the work and spiritual mission of the faith they espouse. And they do so in houses of worship all across this country every week, not just when the pope or another world spiritual leader comes to town. 

There will undoubtedly be many interpreters, both professionals and volunteers, called upon to facilitate communication during the pope's visit this month to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. Whether they stand at the shoulder of religious and political leaders or work "in the wings" from a soundproof booth, we salute them and recognize their important work, because without them these events wouldn't be possible. 

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