"Instead of anxiously wondering what Pope Francis personally thinks about every liturgical detail, we would do better to get on with the work we ourselves have to do,” Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Dominique Rey, said in a recent interview with Vatican Insider.
Sacra Liturgia 2013, a major international conference on liturgy that will take place in Rome June 25-28
Liturgy was one of the main concerns of Pope Benedict’s pontificate. But with the election of Francis the priorities have clearly changed, shifting the focus of the Church from its internal concerns to the world and especially those many who live at its “periphery.”
Yet, the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Dominique Rey, wants to reassure those Catholics who think that the moment for “liturgical renewal” – a shorthand definition for a return to a more solemn style of celebration hopefully ushered in by Benedict’s legalization of the pre-Second Vatican Council Latin Mass – is now over.
“Instead of anxiously wondering what Pope Francis personally thinks about every liturgical detail, we would do better to get on with the work we ourselves have to do,” he said in a recent interview with Vatican Insider.
Bishop Rey is the main organizer of Sacra Liturgia 2013, a major international conference on liturgy that will take place in Rome June 25-28, bringing together a wide range of renowned scholars and churchmen, including Cardinals Ranjith and Burke and monsignor Guido Marini, the papal master of ceremonies.
Bishop Rey, what do you hope to achieve with this conference?
Sacra Liturgia 2013 will promote and continue the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council, and emphasise the fundamental role of the liturgy in Christian life. I hope that it will show that the liturgy is the “source and summit” of all the Church’s activity, especially of the New Evangelisation.
I hope that the Conference will underline this and support better formation in and celebration of the liturgy in the future. That is why I have invited prominent cardinals, bishops and liturgical scholars to share their expertise with us. And of course we will celebrate the liturgy in both forms―both have riches to give us―because before we talk about the liturgy, we need to be liturgical ourselves!
Pope Francis has been criticized for his distinctly different liturgical style from Pope Benedict. Is this criticism fair? What do you respond to these critics?
Many bishops and priests have different ‘styles’ but all of us who are called to be ordained ministers of the Church promise to celebrate the Church’s liturgy as it has been handed on to us. Pope Benedict showed us this, as did Blessed John Paul II and so too today does Pope Francis. The Holy Father is a different person to his predecessor: we should not expect him to be identical to Pope Benedict. But Pope Francis celebrates the liturgy of the Church, as handed down to us, with dignity and beauty. I thought that the Mass and procession for the feast of Corpus Christi yesterday evening was very beautiful and an excellent example for us all. I have concelebrated at his morning Mass: that too was beautiful and correct.
With so many problems ailing the Church today in its relation with the world (lack of vocations, the sex abuse scandal, financial troubles, decline in the number of believers in the West...) does it make sense to focus on a very intra-Church issue such as liturgy?
All of these are very important questions and we need to address them seriously and systematically. But if I do not have the proper relationship with Christ, if that is not where I begin―just like Pope Francis begins his day with 7.00am Mass―then I do not have the correct foundation in my Christian life to deal with the issues and problems facing me and facing the Church today. The quality of my Christian life and my ability to carry out my mission in the world are based on my relationship with Christ, which is begun liturgically in Baptism and strengthened and nourished by the other sacraments and liturgical rites. We have to have good foundations if we are going to build!
Do you think the path of liturgical renewal set out by Pope Benedict can continue under Francis? How?
The Sacred Liturgy was one of the great themes of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, and he did much to teach us about the ars celebrandi and to allow the riches of the old liturgy once again to be available freely. We owe him a lot, and in some ways our conference will be a tribute to his work.
Pope Francis does not have to do Pope Benedict’s work all over again. He can put his energies into making progress in other areas.
Read the full interview