Monday, July 03, 2006

Synod on the Eucharist: The Pope Has the Last Word

Benedict XVI is writing the concluding document, which will be published this summer. Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith gives this preview: “A correction is necessary. The liturgy must be won back, in the spirit of the Council”

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, July 3, 2006 – More than eight months after its conclusion, the synod of bishops held in the Vatican last October on “the Eucharist, source and summit of the Church’s life and mission” is still awaiting the document that will finalize its results.

The concluding document for a synod usually takes the form of an apostolic exhortation, and is written by the pope. But it is the synod itself – through the elaborative work of a council of 15 bishops and cardinals – that writes the outline and presents this to the supreme pontiff.

The council of 15 met in Rome for the last time at the beginning of June. And Benedict XVI, in greeting its members, urged them to move the work along more quickly.

This is what he said:

“I must say that during the ‘ad limina’ visits, a number of bishops ask me: ‘But when will the post-synodal document finally arrive?'. And I reply: ‘They’re working on it. And it certainly can’t take them much longer’. I see gathered here so many competent men that I cannot help but hope to see this document soon, and learn from it myself, so that it can be published for the benefit of the whole Church, which truly is waiting for it.”

Spurred on thus by the pope, the 15 accelerated the work, and in their final communiqué, released on June 10, they guaranteed that the text was almost ready, and “it can soon be delivered to the Holy Father.”

Of the 15 members of the council, 12 were elected by the synod fathers, and 3 designated by the pope. Their secretary general is Archbishop Nikola Eterovic. The members are:

the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, cardinal Francis Arinze;
the archbishop of Lima, cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne;
the archbishop of Buenos Aires, cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio;
the archbishop of Westminster, cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor;
the patriarch of Venice, cardinal Angelo Scola;
the archbishop of Ranchi, India, cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo;
the archbishop of Sydney, cardinal George Pell;
the archbishop of Québec, cardinal Marc Ouellet;
the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, cardinal Walter Kasper;
the bishop of Hong Kong, cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun;
the archbishop of Kisangani, Congo, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya;
the archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan;
the archbishop of Washington, Donald William Wuerl;
the exarch of the Byzantine-rite Catholics in Serbia and Montenegro, Djura DÏudÏar;
the bishop of Imus, Philippines, Luis Antonio G. Tagle.

The 15 therefore represent the élite of the Catholic hierarchy on the various continents. Some of them – Kasper, Scola, Ouellet – are also very adept in theology.

But the outline they are about to deliver to the pope won’t contain any surprises. It is linked to the proposals advanced during the synod, which were relatively modest in scope.

The surprises will come, instead, from Benedict XVI himself, who has ideas about the Eucharist and the liturgy that are very pronounced – and very critical of some aspects of postconciliar liturgical reform.

Some indications of the direction of the pope’s thought can found in the interview that the secretary for the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, gave on June 25 to the French Catholic newspaper “La Croix.”

Malcolm Ranjith was called to this key role by Benedict XVI, to whom he has been close for years.

In the interview – which is his second public statement after an earlier one dedicated to the direction for liturgical prayer – he criticizes the “many tendencies that have banished from view the authentic meaning of the liturgy.”

And to these tendencies he contrasts “a necessary correction, a reform of the reform. We must return to the liturgy in the spirit of the Council.”

Here is his interview with “La Croix” from June 25, 2006, conducted by Isabelle de Gaulmyn. The original title was “The reform of Vatican II never got off the ground,” and it contains passages on the use of Latin, the direction of liturgical prayer, and the missal of Pius V:

”A reform of the reform”

Interview with Malcolm Ranjith

Q: One gets the impression that the liturgy is a priority for Benedict XVI.

A: Rightly so. When one looks back at the history of the liturgy over the years, one sees how important listening to God and touching the transcendent is for everyone. The Church has always been aware that its liturgical life must be oriented toward God, and must bring with it a profoundly mystical atmosphere. Now for a number of years the tendency has been to forget this, and to substitute for it a spirit of complete liberty that leaves everything open to a rootless and depthless creativity.

Q: Has the liturgy become an object of controversy, of debate within the Church, even a factor of serious division?

A: I think this is a purely Western phenomenon. Secularization in the West has led to a deep division between those who take refuge in mysticism, forgetting about life, and those who trivialize the liturgy, depriving it of its role as a mediator with the transcendent. In Asia – for example, in Sri Lanka, my own country – everyone, no mater what his religion, is very conscious of man’s need to be drawn to the transcendent. And this should also be reflected in everyday life. I don’t think that the sense of the divine should be lowered to the human level, but that man should be lifted up to the supernatural level, where we can approach the divine Mystery. Now, the temptation to take charge of this divine Mystery, to try to control it, is strong in a society that divinizes man, as Western society does. Prayer is a gift: liturgy is not determined by man, but by what God brings to birth within him. It implies an attitude of adoration toward God the creator.

Q: Do you have the sense that the conciliar reform went too far?

A: It’s not a question of being anti-conciliar or post-conciliar, conservative or progressive! I think that the liturgical reform of Vatican II never got off the ground. Besides, this reform didn’t begin with Vatican II: in reality, it preceded the Council, coming into being with the liturgical movement at the beginning of the 20th century. If one abides by what the Vatican II decree Sacrosanctum Concilium says, the issue was that of making the liturgy the route of access to faith, and the changes in this area were supposed to emerge in an organic manner, keeping the tradition in view, and not in a haphazard manner. There have been many tendencies that have banished from view the authentic meaning of the liturgy. One could say that the direction of liturgical prayer in the postconciliar reform has not always been the reflection of the documents of Vatican II, and in this sense, one could speak of a necessary correction, a reform of the reform. The liturgy must be won back, in the spirit of the Council.

Q: Through what concrete steps?

A: Today, the problems of the liturgy center around language (vernacular or Latin) and the position of the priest, whether he faces the assembly or faces God. I will surprise you here: nowhere in the conciliar decree does it say that the priest must face the assembly, nor that the use of Latin is forbidden! If the use of the common tongue is permitted, notably in the liturgy of the Word, the decree is very clear that the use of the Latin language should be maintained in the Latin rite. We are waiting for the pope to give us his guidelines on these subjects.

Q: And as for all those who followed, with a great sense of obedience, the post-conciliar reforms – do they need to be told that they were wrong?

A: No, this shouldn’t be turned into an ideological problem. I have noticed how much the young priests here love to celebrate the Tridentine rite. It must be clarified that this ritual, following the missal of Pius V, has not been “outlawed.” Should its use be encouraged even more? That’s for the pope to decide. But it is certain that a new generation is seeking a greater orientation toward mystery. This is not a question of form, but of substance. In order to speak of the liturgy, what is necessary is not a scientific or historical-theological spirit alone, but above all an attitude of meditation, prayer, and silence.

Once again, it is not a question of being progressive or conservative, but simply of permitting man to pray, to listen to the voice of the Lord. What happens in the celebration of the Lord’s glory is not a merely human reality. If one forgets this mystical aspect, everything gets mixed up and confused. If the liturgy loses its mystical and heavenly dimension, then who is left to help man free himself from his egoism and self-enslavement? The liturgy must be above all a road to freedom, in opening man to the infinite.

Original source: www.chiesa

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