The Pope has revealed he wants to change the Lord’s Prayer – as he thinks the current version implies that God pushes people toward sin.
He said the line “lead us not into temptation”, memorised by hundreds of millions of Christians for centuries, is based on a flawed translation.
“It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation,” the Pope said.
The implication is awkward for Christians, who believe it is Satan who tempts people to sin.
“I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen,” the Pope explained.
“A father doesn’t do that, a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.”
The Pope’s comments, made in an interview with Italian television, could lead to a change in the prayer, which is taken from the Bible and is considered by some to encapsulate the core messages of Christianity.
It also weighs in on a long-running liturgical debate over the nature of evil and the relationship between religion and language, explained Church of England theologian Reverend Dr Ian Paul.
The current version has been used by the Catholic Church since 1966, when the Second Vatican Council decided modern vernacular should be used in services instead of Latin.
Before being translated from the Latin vulgate it was translated from ancient Greek. The original text was written in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.
Part of the uncertainty behind the line comes from the original Greek of the central word: peirasmos, which means temptation but can also be used in a more general sense to mean testing.
“The line has a broader sense – that we’re asking God to protect us from really difficult testing,” Rev Dr Paul said.
Some theologians argue that alternatives to the current line might suggest God is powerless to stop temptation by the devil.
“What the prayer does now is puts everything under the power and control of God,” Rev Dr Paul said.
Pope Francis’ remarks follow a decision on the subject by the French Catholic Church, which voted last month to change to a translation approximating “do not let us enter into temptation”.
The Church of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons, uses the adapted line “suffer us not to be led into temptation”.
Any changes to the widespread use of the prayer in the Catholic Church would only be decided after extensive consultation, however. Rev Dr Paul said the Church of England had no plans to change the Lord’s Prayer.
“In the end you can’t actually control how people interpret stuff just by translating, we have to talk about it and explain it too,” he said.