This news article by Catholic News Service tells of the removal of the Tetragrammaton from Catholic masses.

"Yahweh" -- a name of God that the Vatican has ruled must not "be used or pronounced" in songs and prayers during Catholic Masses.

This might be related to the Jewish practice of not pronouncing the Tetragrammaton (God's name, possibly pronounced like Yahweh or Yehovah). Which I think is based on an overtly careful application of the commandment not to pronounce God's name in vain.

What is the reasoning for this directive? Is it just to follow the Jewish example?

What does this mean for the New Jerusalem Bible, a widely used Catholic translation that consistently translates the Tetragrammaton as "Yahweh"?

  • I'd bet my left foot you're right about it being related to the Jewish practice. It's the ultimate expression of respect for the Lord. Oct 1, 2011 at 22:58
  • I think it follows the Jewish example. Pope Benedict XVI in his book Jesus of Nazareth volume 1, expresses his concern about the issue. In it he says that it will be better not to translate the tetragrammaton as an obedience to the commandment. I can't find the quote.
    – deps_stats
    Oct 1, 2011 at 23:40
  • 1
    You may want to read the answers here: romancatholicresources.com/2009/08/… Oct 2, 2011 at 1:34
  • @JamesBlack - you should post that as an answer. It's got the supporting reference, and someone needs to post the answer to this question or it will hang open forever. Oct 3, 2011 at 2:13
  • 1
    @David God says to Moses, "This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation." How do you suppose that not calling him by that name is the ultimate expression of respect?
    – Andrew
    Mar 16, 2016 at 20:18

2 Answers 2


The "removal" of it is actually a reminder of Roman Catholic tradition. That is, uttering the tetragrammaton has always been prohibited, mostly for the same reasons it's prohibited in Jewish traditions. The usage of it has crept into recent usage unintentionally in attempts to be more modern with translations.

To combat this (and other translation issues), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued the Liturgiam Authenticam in 2001, which provided guidance on how to translate the Bible based on Church teaching, and provided instructions specifically about the tetragrammaton:

[I]n accordance with immemorial tradition, which indeed is already evident in the above-mentioned “Septuagint” version, the name of almighty God expressed by the Hebrew tetragrammaton (YHWH) and rendered in Latin by the word Dominus, is to be rendered into any given vernacular by a word equivalent in meaning.

In 2008, a letter was sent to all the Bishops' conferences (PDF) intended to remind them of this instruction. This letter again provided reasons why the tetragrammaton ought not be uttered and reiterated:

Avoiding pronouncing the tetragrammaton of the name of God on the part of the Church has therefore its own grounds. Apart from a motive of a purely philological order, there is also that of remaining faithful to the Church's tradition, from the beginning, that the sacred tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated.

The letter then specified three directives which serve to remind the conferences about the prohibition on the use of the tetragrammaton in prayers, songs, and Biblical translations.

The Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible were published in 1966 and 1985, respectively: as mentioned above, Wikipedia suggests the use of Yahweh in them was an attempt to modernize the translations. They are mostly unique in this respect: other translations like the New American Bible and the Douey-Rheims Bible translate it to "God" or "Lord" in accordance with Church teaching.

Given the 2001 and 2008 instructions provided by the Holy See, any future editions based on the Jerusalem Bible should and likely would avoid the use of the tetragrammaton in favor of "Lord".


You may want to read this article. Basically we shouldn't pronounce the name of God, but there is more in the answers in the link.

I may add more later, but I need to head to work.

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