Thursday, July 13, 2006


Jul. 13 ( - The Vatican is planning to restore some disciplinary control of the liturgy, according the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in response to widespread abuses.

Speaking to the I Media news agency in Rome, Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don will soon take steps to indicate the importance of following the Church's liturgical guidelines. Asked whether Pope Benedict XVI is preparing a document on the liturgy, Archbishop Ranjith answered indirectly, noting that the Holy Father has written and spoken extensively on liturgical issues in past years. Pope Benedict is keenly aware of today's challenges, he said, and determined to restore a proper sense of reverence to the liturgy. The Sri Lankan prelate said that some of his thoughts had been taken out of context after a previous interview with the French newspaper La Croix. He had not intended to suggest that the liturgical reforms of Vatican II had failed, he stressed; rather, he meant that some liturgical changes had produced an overreaction, and a loss of appreciation for Church traditions. As a result, he said, "the reforms of the Council did not bear the expected fruit, because of the way in which they were interpreted and put into practice." Now, he continued, the great challenge for the Church is to promote a deeper understanding of the liturgical reforms: one in keeping with the constant traditions of Catholicism. Archbishop Ranjith said that two extremes must be avoided: a liturgical free-for-all in which "every priest of bishop does what he wants, which creates confusion;" or a complete abandonment of liturgical reforms, leading to a vision that is "closed up in the past." Today, he said, those two extremes are becoming more prominent, and the Church needs to establish a middle ground.

Every day, the archbishop disclosed, the Congregation for Divine Worship receives new complaints about serious liturgical abuses, and complaints that local bishops have failed to correct them. If the Church fails to curb these abuses, he said, "people will attend the Tridentine Mass, and our churches will be empty." Liturgical guidelines are set forth clearly, he observed, in the Roman Missal and in Church documents. Now "some discipline is necessary regarding what we do at the altar."

Archbishop Ranjith spoke to I Media after returning from Kumasi, Ghana, where he participated in a workshop about the liturgy in Africa. He reported that Church officials from 23 different African countries took part in the discussions, which centered on questions of translation and inculturation.


[Here follows the original French interview in an unofficial, rough translation; in some places I've cut out phrases which were too convuluted for me to get a sense of; in others I've replaced a word to gain what seems to be the sense of what is being said; however, again, this is not an official translation, nor even a very competent one. It seems however to be of interest to read the broader interview, even if only loosely and roughly:]

Rome: The Vatican intends to reaffirm the need for liturgical discipline
The Pope wants to put an end to the abuses, ensures Mgr Malcom Ranjith

(Original French Article)

Rome, July 13, 2006 (Apic) Pope Benedict XVI will put an end to the “abuses” in the celebration of the Mass and will put an end to “the confrontations” with the adherents of the Latin mass, declared a person at the Vatican, Thursday, at the agency I.Media, partner of Apic in Rome. According to the Sri Lankian Bishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don, new secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pope “will take measures” because the liturgy of the Catholic Church has too often been “a sign of scandal”.

Msgr Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don, Secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, intends to point out the importance of discipline as regards liturgical celebration. According to the Sri Lankan prelate, Benedict XVI “will take measures indicating how it is advisable to celebrate" explained the prelate on his return of Ghana where he took part in a congress devoted to liturgical promotion in Africa and Madagascar.

Q.: You recently affirmed in the French Catholic daily newspaper La Croix that the liturgical reform of the Council the Vatican II “had never taken off “. These words have surprised many people…

R.: I am surprised, because I did not say it thus and it is not true. I wanted to say that the conciliar reform - with the awaited spiritual revival, with the major catecheses which were to start again the Church vis-a-vis the secularist context - had results which are not so positive. The reform took off well. Thus, the use of the vernacular language is a positive thing, because everyone can include/understand what occurs during the readings. In the same way, the direction of communion which developed. But these elements sometimes were accentuated a little too much by giving up certain positive aspects of the tradition of the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger himself, in the foreword of the book Turing Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer of Father Uwe Michael Lang, has said that the abandonment of Latin and the orientation of celebrating towards the people was not part of the conclusions of the Council.

Q.: For some, which accurately followed the Council, your remarks surprise…

R.: It is not a question of giving up the Council, because it influenced the Church substantially in its opening to the world. But, at same time, it would have been necessary to deepen what we had already. It would have been necessary, as was said the Council, to have “organic” change, without a break, a giving up of the past. The encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia of John Paul II, and the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (April 2004) indicate well that something did not go right. The Pope spoke then with a certain bitterness. Thus, one cannot say that things happened very well, but one cannot say either that it happened very badly. The reforms of the Council, by the way in which they were understood and implemented, did not bear the hoped for fruits.

Q.: Concretely, what should be done?

R.: There are two extremes to avoid: to allow each priest or bishop to do what he wants, which creates confusion, or, on the contrary, to completely give up a vision adapted to the modern context and to be locked up in the past. Today, these two extremes continue to grow. Which is the happy medium? … It is advisable to reflect for a moment, to celebrate seriously and to improve what we currently do.

Q.: Does one have to await a papal document or one of your Congregation on this subject?

R.: In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy (published in German in 2000, then in French in 2001), Cardinal Ratzinger had presented a very complete framework of the question. I believe that the pope is very conscious of what is occuring, that he studies the question and that it is a priority [?]. He will take measures to indicate to us with what seriousness we must celebrate the liturgy. It is with responsibility that the liturgy becomes a sign of building of the faith and not a sign of scandal. Because, if the liturgy is not able to change the Christians and to make them become heroic witnesses of the Gospel, then it does not realize its true goal. Those who take part in the Mass must leave the church convinced that its engagement social, moral, political and economic, is a Christian engagement.

Q.: Are the liturgical abuses really so numerous?

R.: Each day, we receive so much letters, signed, where people deplore the many abuses: priests who do what they want, of the bishops which ignore this or even who make their priests [do these things] in the name of the `true renewal' We cannot conceal this. It is of our responsibility to be vigilant. Because, in the end, people will attend the Tridentine Mass and our churches will be emptied. The Tridentine Mass does not belong to Lefebvristes. Now is the moment to cease the confrontations and to see whether we were faithful to the instructions of the Sacrosanctum Concilium. This is why one needs discipline for what we do... The rules are clearly shown in the Roman Missal and the documents of the Church.

Q.: You hardly return of Kumasi, in Ghana, where you directed work of the congress organized by your congregation on liturgical promotion in Africa and in Madagascar. Of what that did it consist?

R.: There were representatives of 23 African countries, of which many bishops. We presented the work of the Congregation to them, the updates necessary. We also evoked the way of translating the liturgical texts and the need for recognition of these texts by the Congregation. We devoted one day whole to the inculturation in the liturgy, and we also studied the question of the liturgical formation of the faithful.

Q.: Which questions were particularly mentioned concerning the inculturation?

R.: We especially spoke about the problems of language in the liturgical translations, how to introduce the local languages, and also adaptations of the liturgy. The bishops are conscious of the danger, on the one hand, to have a certain religious and cultural syncretism, and on the other hand they are aware of the necessity that the liturgy is comprehensible to all. We discussed the question of the universal identity of the Mass, the things which cannot be changed and of those which can be, of the African values of crowned [?], mystery, family, the respect of elders, and of how to introduce them into the liturgy.

Q.: Which recommendations result from this first continental congress?

R.: 25 different points were approved by the participants at the end of the congress. Essence being not to betray the universal form of the sacraments, especially its Catholic aspects. At the same time, it is advisable to seek to engage a deeper inculturation, not only external but also of mentality, a way of seeing, a way of requesting, etc. Very many bishops took note of many points of the liturgy of the Church which they were unaware of before. This meeting, on the one hand, thus made it possible the Congregation to listen to the bishops, to have their problems, and, on the other hand, it helped the bishops to include/understand the universal needs for the liturgy.

Q.: You await now texts coming from African countries to approve?

R.: Yes, because many of the bishops were unaware of that it was necessary that their texts are recognized by the Congregation. They indeed continued to use texts written without approval of Rome. It is quite possible that this situation exists on other continents.

(Remarks collected in Rome by Antoine-Marie Izoard/apic/ami/pr)

13.07.2006 - Apic

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