Pope Francis on Friday appeared to wade into one of the most contentious liturgical debates in Catholicism in recent years, siding with his predecessor Pope emeritus Benedict XVI by insisting that Christ died “for many,” instead of using the phrase “for all.”

“The ‘many’ who will rise for eternal life are to be understood as the ‘many’ for whom the blood of Christ was shed,” Francis said. “They are the multitude that, thanks to the goodness and mercy of God, can experience the life that does not pass away, the complete victory over death brought by the resurrection.”

Francis argued that “for many” better captures the sense that human beings have to make a choice during this life, either for or against God.

“Awakening from death isn’t, in itself, a return to life,” the pope said. “Some in fact will awake to eternal life, others for eternal shame.

“Death renders definitive the ‘crossroads’ which, already here in this world, stand before us: The way of life, that is, the one that leads us to communion with God, or the path of death, that is, the one that leads us away from Him,” the pontiff said.

The pope’s words came during a homily as he was saying Mass for the eternal response of the 14 cardinals and bishops who’ve died in the past year. The list of cardinals includes American William H. Keeler, Indian Ivan Dias, German Joachim Meisner, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor from the United Kingdom, and Italian Carlo Caffarra.

The phrase “for many,” used both in the Gospel of Mark (14:24) and Matthew (26:28), has been debated repeatedly over the past two decades by liturgists, theologians, and others. Used in the Roman Mass during the Eucharist prayer with reference to the blood of Christ, its Latin original is “pro multis.”

The most recent English translation of the full quote currently is: “Which will be poured out for you, and for many, for the forgiveness of sins.”

When the Roman Missal was translated into the vernacular, many initial translations used “for all” instead of “for many” to represent the phrase pro multis. Hence, Catholics who had Mass in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or German would say that Christ “came for all,” while the Polish, the Dutch or the French would say he came for “many.”

In 2006, the Vatican decreed that in translations of the revised edition of the Roman Missal published in 2002, the phrase was to be translated literally, as “for many.” The official version in English has been published, using that literal translation. However, that change for several other languages is still in the works.

The 2002 translations were to follow the Liturgiam Authenticam instructions issued on March 2001 by the Vatican’s Divine Worship office.

Among those still working on the translation, both Italians and Germans have opted to maintain the use of “for all,” delaying the translations. In 2012, then Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to the German bishops’ conference, urging them to adopt the “for many” form, explaining that the “for all” was the result of a consensus among bishops after the Second Vatican Council, but that it was an “interpretation” more than a translation.

Full story at Crux.