Thursday, April 27, 2006

CNS STORY: Vatican official says post-Vatican II liturgy could be perfected

Vatican official says post-Vatican II liturgy could be perfected

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Liturgical changes implemented after the Second Vatican Council could be perfected, said the new secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

No one is in favor of making changes for the sake of change or even for nostalgia, said Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the secretary, during an April 27 discussion about the direction the priest faces during Mass.

The discussion coincided with the publication of the Italian translation of Father Uwe Michael Lang's book, "Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer."

The book previously was published in English by Ignatius Press; the text includes a foreword written in 2003 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The cardinal, who has since become pope, said that the Second Vatican Council did not mention the direction the priest faces and the post-conciliar documents only recommended that priests be able to celebrate facing the people.

He wrote that the issue was not over a priest celebrating "with his back to the people," but rather "his facing the same direction as the people" when offering the church's most solemn prayer in consecrating the Eucharist.

At the book presentation, Father Lang said his study focused on the history and theology of the priest facing East -- the biblically symbolic direction of the Lord -- and not on the pre- or post-Vatican II liturgy.

"The idea of my book is to demonstrate that the priest is not turning his back on the people, but leading the people in prayer toward the Lord," he said.

"I think it would be a good idea to reintroduce this idea into the liturgy little by little, without a great revolution," he said, adding that he was speaking only about the moments during the Mass when the priest, on behalf of the people, is praying to God, not when he is addressing the people assembled.

Archbishop Patabendige Don was asked if Pope Benedict had ordered a study of the issue or if the congregation was moving in that direction.

"For the moment," the archbishop said, "there is nothing, but we listen to the opinions and experience of people who are interested in these questions."

While Archbishop Patabendige Don said he was convinced Catholics need help recovering the sense of mystery and of God's transcendence in the liturgy, careful study is needed on specific ideas.

"Things done in a hurry tend not to give the hoped-for results," he said.

Above all, the archbishop said, Catholics must engage in study and discussion in a calm, respectful and prayerful atmosphere "without labeling each other" as traditionalists or radicals.

Archbishop Patabendige Don said he does not necessarily agree with people who call for a "reform of the reform" of the liturgy, but he thinks Father Lang's book contains a valid call "at least for a further perfection of the reform."

CNS STORY: Vatican official says post-Vatican II liturgy could be perfected

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