Vatican II liturgical reform 'irreversible,' pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — 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

“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

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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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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