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Liturgy Newsletter

May 2005


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The Pasch of Pope John Paul II
As the Church mourns the death of Pope John Paul and gives thanks to God for his extraordinary ministry, it is appropriate in this Newsletter to recall his contribution to the process of the renewal of the Church’s liturgy called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium. Lack of space means that attention can be paid only to the late Holy Father’s principal teaching and influences.
It would be difficult to over emphasise the importance for liturgical formation of the many and varied celebrations of the liturgy presided over by Pope John Paul both during his pastoral and missionary pilgrimages across the globe, and ‘at home’ in the diocese of Rome, on pastoral visitation and in the great basilicas and St Peter’s Square. The value of these celebrations for the Holy Father himself is witnessed to in Mane Nobiscum Domine, his last Apostolic Letter written for the ‘Year of the Eucharist’. Words recorded in the Obituary notice placed in the Holy Father’s coffin affirm the exemplary way in which he promoted the liturgical life of the Church: ‘As sacerdos magnus he exercised the liturgical ministry in the Diocese of Rome and in the whole world, in total fidelity to Vatican Council II.’

Yet some considered him unduly responsive to the pastoral needs of those others uncomfortable with the liturgical renewal. His decision to establish the Ecclesia Dei Commission to oversee the authorised celebrations of the Mass according to the ritual books of 1962 has been criticised by some, though of course warmly welcomed by others. In more recent years certain documents of the Congregation of Divine Worship, issued with Papal approval, most notably Liturgiam Authenticam and Redemptionis Sacramentum, have been received somewhat nervously by many and by some seen as threatening the integrity of the renewal processes. However as time proceeds the pastoral advantage provided by these documents becomes more evident, as they assist the Church to what Pope John Paul himself called ‘a sort of examination of conscience’ as to its reception of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente 36 and Spiritus et Sponsa 6)

The significance of the Holy Father’s Encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, has been widely recognised. Two other documents issued to mark anniversaries of the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium attracted much less attention, but the teachings presented in Vicesimus Quintus Annus (1988) and Spiritus et Sponsa (2003) deserve to be much more widely known and engaged with. They provide broad and generous appreciations of the renewal of the liturgy achieved to date, and encouragement to continue this work into the future.

The closing words of Spiritus et Sponsa are these: At the beginning of this millennium, may a ‘liturgical spirituality’ be developed that makes people conscious that Christ is the first ‘liturgist’ who never ceases to act in the Church and in the world through the Paschal Mystery continuously celebrated, and who associates the Church with himself, in praise of the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

They provide a clear indication of a pastoral priority of the ministry of John Paul II and of the work of renewal to which the Church is called to commit herself.

Bursary for Liturgical Study
In his will, Mgr James Crichton left money to be invested for the benefit of any seminarian or priest of an English Catholic diocese to assist with their fees in their study at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Sant’ Anselmo, Rome. The first bursary will be granted for Academic year 2006/7. Suitable applicants should reply in English or Italian to: Mgr James Crichton Bursary for the study of Liturgy, The Preside, Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Pzza Cavalieri di Malta, 5, 00153 Roma, Italia or e-mail: pil.roma@iol.it

On the Way to Life
The Department for Catholic Education and Formation of the Bishops’ Conference has commissioned a critical analysis of contemporary culture from Fr James Hanvey sj and the Heythrop Institute for Religion, Ethics and Public Life. The Department recently presented the report to the Bishops’ Conference. The report, and people’s responses to it, is likely to have a broad influence on reflection on catechesis and formation including the formation for and by the liturgy over the next few years.

Catholic Education Service

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