Vatican II liturgical reform ‘irreversible,’ pope says

| Junno Arocho Esteves | August 24, 2017 | 2 Comments

Pope Francis gives a blessing during an audience with participants in Italy’s National Liturgical Week in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 24. CNS photo/Giorgio Onorati, EPA

The Catholic Church must continue to work to understand the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and why they were made, rather than rethinking them, Pope Francis said.

“After this magisterium, after this long journey, we can affirm with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible,” Pope Francis told participants in Italy’s National Liturgical Week.

The pope’s speech to the 800 participants Aug. 24 was the longest and most systematic talk he has given as pope on the theme of the liturgy since Vatican II.

Instead of reconsidering the council’s reforms, he said, priests and liturgists should work on “rediscovering the decisions made” in reforming the liturgy, “internalizing its inspirational principles and observing the discipline that governs it.”

The National Liturgical Week is sponsored by the Liturgical Action Center, which organizes liturgical training as well as national, regional and diocesan conventions to “disseminate and promote liturgical pastoral guidelines proposed by the Italian bishops’ conference,” according to its website.

After congratulating the organization on its 70th anniversary, Pope Francis said the church has lived through “substantial and not superficial” events throughout its history, including with the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent liturgical reform.

Citing the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” the pope said the reform responded to “real needs and the concrete hope for a renewal,” which would offer a living liturgy where the faithful were no longer “strangers or silent spectators.”

For this reason, he added, the church must continue to rediscover the reasons for the reform and “overcome unfounded and superficial readings, partial revelations, and practices that disfigure it.”

Reflecting on the week’s theme — “A living liturgy for a living church” — Pope Francis said the liturgy is “alive” through the living presence of Jesus. Liturgical signs, including the altar, direct the gaze of the priest and the faithful to “Christ, the living stone, who was discarded by men but has become the cornerstone of the spiritual edifice in which we worship.”

“The liturgy is life for the entire people of the church,” he said. “By its nature, the liturgy is ‘popular’ and not clerical, because it is — as the etymology teaches us — an action for the people, but also of the people.”

The liturgy, he continued, unites church members through prayer, and it “gathers in prayer all those who seek to listen to the Gospel without discarding anyone; it summons the great and small, rich and poor, children and elderly people, healthy and sick, just ones and sinners.”

“In the image of the ‘immense multitude’ celebrating the liturgy in the sanctuary of heaven,” Pope Francis said, “the liturgical assembly overcomes through Christ every boundary of age, race, language and nation.”

The liturgy is “not an idea to understand,” but rather a “source of life and light for our journey of faith,” he said. Therefore, the rites and prayers become “a school of Christian life” for the faithful “by what they are and not by the explanations we give them.”

“This is still the commitment I ask of you today: to help ordained ministers as well as other ministers — cantors, artists, musicians — cooperate so that the liturgy may be the source and culmination of the vitality of the church,” the pope said.

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Category: From the Pope

  • Charles C.

    Good enough. What does Vatican II say? Especially in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

    Pope Francis: “After this magisterium, after this long journey, we can affirm with
    certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is
    irreversible,”

    Vatican II: “21. . . . For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.

    “23. That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remain open to
    legitimate progress careful investigation is always to be made into each part of
    the liturgy which is to be revised.

    And does Vatican II reverse liturgical power to the Pope? Not all of it.

    “54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be
    allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the
    readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to
    those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art.
    36 of this Constitution.

    “Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to
    say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which
    pertain to them.”

    Article 36 gives great discretionary power to each local bishop. (Which is why Masses with any Latin are in such a distinct minority.)

    And take a look around your church at the posters, banners, and displays.

    ” 124. Bishops should be careful to ensure that works of art which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by
    depraved forms or through lack of artistic merit or because of mediocrity or pretense, be removed from the house of God and from other sacred places.”

    And what about music?

    “112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.

    116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman
    liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

    “But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means
    excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of
    the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.”

    I’m sorry, but I’ve heard enough of “One Bread, One Body,” to make it insufferable, close to torture. Where is sacred music when it’s needed?

    So, Your Holiness, it seems as though the “reform” can be reformed, at least if you’re interested in following Vatican II, and it some cases it’s in desperate need of it. Further, individual bishops can bring about the change.

    But maybe Pope Francis is saying that the changes brought about by those claiming to follow the spirit of Vatican II can never be changed and must be accepted under the full weight of the Magesterium. If that’s the case, we have another BIG problem.

  • Charles C.

    From the National Catholic Register:

    In March this year, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, decried what has transpired since the Council.

    “Certainly, some fine initiatives were taken” to promote “greater active participation” and to bring about “progress day by day in the Christian life of the faithful,” he said in a speech given in Germany.

    But he added that we “cannot close our eyes to the disaster, the devastation and the schism that the modern promoters of a living liturgy caused by remodeling the Church’s liturgy according to their ideas.

    “They forgot that the liturgical act is not just a prayer, but also and above all a mystery in which something is accomplished for us that we cannot fully understand but that we must accept and receive in faith, love, obedience and adoring silence,” he said.

    The cardinal called for a recognition of “the serious and profound crisis” which, since the Council, has affected the liturgy by placing man and not God at the center of worship.

    Last year, Cardinal Sarah asked all priests to return “as soon as possible” to celebrating Mass ad orientem, facing east rather than towards the congregation, as Mass was celebrated before the Council reforms.