The newly appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship said this week that some liturgical reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council have not been true to the council's decrees. Archbishop Albert Patabendige Don accused a human-centred "spirit of total liberty ... without roots or depth", of too often usurping the divine mystery - which should be at the heart of the liturgy - in the post-conciliar liturgical reforms.
"The Vatican II decree Sacrosanctum Concilium ... was about making the liturgy the entry point to the faith, and liturgical changes were expected to emerge organically, by taking account of tradition, and not precipitately," said Archbishop Patabendige Don. But there had been drifts away from this spirit. "The direction of liturgical prayer in the post-conciliar reform has not always reflected the texts of Vatican II, and in this sense, we can speak of a necessary correction, of a reform of the reform. We must regain the liturgy in the spirit of the Council," he added.
Today, the problems concerning the liturgy turned upon language (vernacular or Latin), and the position of the priest, (facing the congregation or God), said the Archbishop in an interview with La Croix, a French Catholic daily newspaper, on 25 June. "Nowhere, in the conciliar decree, is it laid down that the priest must henceforth face the congregation, nor that the use of Latin is forbidden. If the use of modern languages is accepted, notably for the Liturgy of the Word, the decree clearly specifies that the use of Latin will be maintained in the Latin rite. On these subjects, we await the Pope's instructions," he added.
The archbishop noted how much young priests in Rome liked celebrating the Tridentine rite. "I must make clear that this rite, that of the Missal of St Pius V, is not 'outlawed'. Should we encourage it more? The Pope will decide. But it is certain that a new generation is demanding a greater emphasis upon mystery." In another interview with the I Media news agency on 23 June Archbishop Patabendige Don said that due to the Lefebvrist schism, the Tridentine rite "has taken a certain identity that is not right". He emphasised the need for a liturgy that was "more beautiful, more transcendent" but cautioned that it was imprudent to press for quick decisions.
In a television interview broadcast in Poland last October (The Tablet, 5 November 2005) the Pope invited Catholics to re-read Second Vatican Council documents and urged "all believers in Christ" to "keep alive the spirit" of the council. He said documents written by his predecessor, John Paul II, were "the authentic interpretation of Vatican II".
In suggesting that the documents be read again, the Pope appeared to some to be suggesting that there is ample room for a less "liberal" interpretation of the teaching.
Meanwhile, the Pope used the occasion of a Sistine Chapel concert of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sacred music last Sunday to call for the preservation of the Church's heritage of sacred music. He said genuine renewal in Catholic music "cannot be achieved except by following the great traditions of the past, of Gregorian chants and sacred polyphony". He added that this musical tradition is "a priceless spiritual, artistic, and cultural heritage".