This is a letter sent to Le Nouvel Observateur after their article on Mel Gibson’s film The Passion (my translation):
You say that "However, Jean-Paul II said : ‘It was as it was’ (ça s’est passé comme ça (this is what happened))." Well, you’re wrong. This English sentence means "cela s’est passé comme cela s’est passé" (It happened as it happened), or more simply "Cela s’est passé" (It happened). In other words, we don’t know how it happened. All we know is, it happened. It’s a way to remain neutral. If he had wanted to say "Cela s’est passé comme ça" (This is what happened), the Pope would have said "That is how it was". It might be a small mistake, but the consequences are huge. What exactly did the Pope say, and in what language?
Frances H. (English and a non-believer)
This shows how a controversial translation can confuse everyone and make someone as important as the Pope sound like he said something he actually didn’t say. I actually don’t agree entirely with the reader; I think "It was as it was" could be translated in many different ways. The problem here is that this sentence is quite mysterious and vague, so it is very difficult to understand and hence to translate. The other issue that is raised is the question of the language the Pope used. Did he use English, or is "It was as it was" a translation of his original comment in Polish or Latin? If it is a translation, we’re in danger of being in a case of Chinese whispers, where the real meaning is diluted and possibly corrupted by a series of inaccurate translations.
I must say I was mystified by the Pope’s comment and would be hard-pushed to know how to translate it, as I really don’t understand what he meant. Anyone out there willing to give an explanation, and, better yet, a translation in French?