With great emotion I received and read the "Farewell Address" of His Excellency Most Reverend Piero Marini, Titular Bishop of Martirano, former Master of Pontifical Ceremonies, and now President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. His Excellency’s reappointment, after so very very many many years of earnest service, came not so long after the release of His Holiness’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
His Excellency, after so very long as papal M.C., issued a letter to various personages in the Roman Curia. It is both a Farewell Address and a long thank you note.
Here is the text of his three page letter in my translation. I retained something of his style… which at times was a little stilted. My emphases.
Vatican City, 1 October 2007
Most Reverend Sir,
In leaving the direction of the Office of Liturgical Ceremonies of the Supreme Pontiff, I feel the need to thank above all Divine Providence for the singular liturgical experience which was granted to me to live for almost 21 years of service to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, after the 21 years, not any less extraordinary, spent in various organisms of the Roman Curia which guided the implementation of the liturgical reform desired by the Second Vatican Council.
Those years of direct service to the Pope were the central years and the most demanding of my human and priestly life: from the time I had nearly completed 45 years when all my horizons opened up to me, until just short of 66 years of age.
Looking back over the journey now completed, I thank the Lord who called me to live a special ministry in the Church of God. Above all for being in the immediate service of the Successor of Peter in the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries: first, of Servant of God John Paul II for nearly 18 years and subsequently of the present Pontiff Benedict XVI for the first intense two and a half years of the beginning of the Pontificate. It was an ecclesial experience which allowed me to experience the presence of the shadow of Peter in the today’s Church: he, in fact, in his Successors continues to announce the word of the gospel and celebrate the Sacraments in the Church of Rome and in the different communities of faithful scattered through the whole world. It was a unique and unrepeatable ecclesial experience, enough to think about the 80 international trips I completed twice, without counting those in Italy. No liturgical experience in our time is comparable for the variety of salvific events commemorated, for the diversity of places of celebration, for the multiplicity of situations and of solutions, for the number of people encountered, for the composition of the assemblies, for the diversity of traditions and of cultural roots, than those lived in these years of service at the cathedra of Peter.
Together with the Successor of Peter, in these years I learned to love the liturgy of the Church, which I consider with the faith the greatest gift received which gives a sense to my human and priestly life in the world.
In any event, providence has called me to look forward. In this glance, which pertains to my old age, the prospect of continuing to busy myself with the celebrations of the Sacred Mysteries of the Church consoles me. Every time, in fact, I celebrate I feel that my being is in communion with life: every time the light of the Risen One illuminates and warms the hears, the eyes recognize and shine with joy in the peace of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of these thoughts suggested by the heart, I desire to thank the two Supreme Pontiffs whom I had the grace to serve as Master of the Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies. Above all, the Servant of God John Paul II, who nominated me at 43 years to be Undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and two years afterward he entrusted the responsibility of the Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies and in 1988 he imposed hands on me in episcopal ordination.
I thank him for always having fostered the development of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations: he established it with juridical autonomy, and promised and gave his approbation for the updating (aggiornamento) of the papal ceremonies of the liturgy, and, finally, in Rome, and above all in the numberless communities visited in the whole world, he received and approved with conviction the proposals of adaptation to the different cultures in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. During his Pontificate the papal celebrations thus became for the particular Churches a sure point of reference for recognizing the face of the liturgy which the Council wanted. In reality, John Paul II was not an expert in liturgy in the technical sense, but he entrusted himself to his Maestro and with his pastoral enthusiasm for evangelization he became in the Church the most authoritative interpreter and the most tenacious executor of the liturgy of Vatican II. For this, I feel the need to say thank you to him who now celebrated in the communion of saints the liturgy of the heavenly Jerusalem.
I extend a filial and special thanks also to Pope Benedict XVI who, as soon as he was elected, wanted to confirm me as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies. In truth for me it was not an entirely new experience because I had already been his master of ceremonies at the beginning of his cardinalate. Also for this reason from the first moment I felt myself welcomed by Pope Benedict as a son. In him I was able to recognize, with my true satisfaction, not only a professor but a Pope expert in liturgy. I will not be able ever to forget the emotion I had of finding myself alone with him in the Sistine Chapel just after his election, an emotion experienced during the carrying out of the rites of the beginning of his Petrine Ministry. They will remain fixed in memory and heart because I consider them the most complete and successful icon which the liturgy has given of the Church after the Second Vatican Council. Thank you, Pope Benedict, for having approved such rites and for having celebrated them with the Holy People of God. Finally, thanks for having given me, at the end of my service as Maestro (Master of Ceremonies), a new task which permits me to continue to busy myself up close with the celebrations of the Eucharist in the Church of God. It will be easier for me to continue to sense his friendly and paternal proximity.
I desire to tahnk, at last, all the people who in these years helped me to carry out better my service in the pontifical liturgical ceremonies: the personnel of the Office, the pontifical masters of ceremony, the consultors, the personnel of various entities of the Holy See and so many other collaborators in Rome, in Italian dioceses and in the particular Churches in the whole world. Without them it would not have been possible for me to live the marvelous ecclesial experience in the pontifical ceremonies.
To all my thanks from the heart for the help and the witness of the faithful.
A couple observations.
First, on the surface the letter seems to be a heartful expression of thanks. I take him at his word. I am sure he is grateful for what he had the chance to do.
Second, the real purpose of the letter, I think, is to provide a written apologia, which will remain part of the record, for his own liturgical views.
The letter is crafted to build up and defend his own liturgical sources. He he says that John Paul II "accepted and approved" everything he did "with conviction". He wanted everything he did to become the point of reference for all liturgies everywhere else. This means that everything he did to adapt the liturgy to individual cultures. He makes a distinction between the Successor of Peter celebrating in Rome and in other places. This was all the "face of the liturgy the Council wanted". Note the use of the image of "face". This is important to Marini.
Then he seems to make use of the approval that Pope Benedict gave to the ceremonies for the rite of the beginning of the present pontificate. Remember that Marini himself put all that together. He made the changes. That whole thing was his baby. Thus, Marini says, about his own rites (that John Paul II had approved first, and only later did Pope Benedict consent to use), that they were "the most complete and successful icon which the liturgy has given of the Church after the Second Vatican Council." Note, icon. He obviously has a very high opinion of what he did. His own rites are effectively the "face", the "image" of what the Church needs, must have, should have, will have, etc. This, his suggests, even Pope Benedict XVI approved.
To give you a taste of what I am talking about when we crawl into his thought, consider the funeral of the late Holy Father.
In the Ordo Exequiarum Romani Pontificis (OERP) or “Order of Funeral Rites of a Roman Pontiff”, reveals that the rites for the Pope’s death are divided into three major moments or “stations”. We have seen the Latin term statio on WDTPRS in the past, especially in connection with the traditions of Lent in Rome or the Stations of the Cross.
The first statio, or “stopping place” is the Pope’s own residence, the Apostolic Palace, where the Pope’s death is certified, his body is placed for a more private review.
The second statio begins when the body is carried in a translatio to the Vatican Basilica. The second statio is comprised of the translatio, the public visitation of the body in the Basilica by all who would come, celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and of Holy Mass, the deposition of the Pope’s body into its coffin, the funeral Mass with commendation and elements also of the Eastern Churches’ rites in Greek.
The third statio begins with the procession with the body to the place of burial which will no doubt be in the crypt beneath the Basilica of St. Peter in the earth under the place where the body of Blessed Pope John XXIII once lay before its translation to an altar of the main Basilica. In the third statio the biography of the Pope, called a rogitum, is read aloud in Latin and then sealed in twofold copy in metal tubes for interment with the Pope’s body along with a small bag or marsupium of the silver and bronze medallions minted in his pontificate.
Then a white silk veil is placed over the face of the deceased Pope by the Master of Pontifical Ceremonies and the Supreme Pontiff’s Secretary (the perennially faithful Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, in this case).
During the press briefing we journalists had before the evening, Archbp. Marini shared the prayer used for this moment of the third statio and as he did was quite clearly emotionally moved, his voice catching as he read:
LATIN TEXT (OERP 98):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
vitae et mortis Domine,
speramus et credimus
vitam Summi Pontificis (Ioanni Pauli)
nunc in te absconditam esse.
cui lumen huius mundi evanuit,
vera luce quae ex te, indeficienti fonte, manat,
qui tua itinera est perscrutatus
ut ea Ecclesiae ostenderet,
tuum paternum vultum videat.
qui e nostro conspectu discedit,
pulchritudinem tuam contempletur
et gregem tibi, aeterno Pastori, commendet
Qui vivis et regnas per omnia saecula saeculorum. R. Amen.
Almighty and eternal God,
Lord of life and of death,
we hope and we pray
that the life of the Holy Father, (John Paul)
has now been hidden in You.
May his face,
from which the light of this world has faded away,
be illuminated forever by the true light
which streams from You the inexhaustible source.
May his face,
which searched out Your paths
so that he might show them to the Church,
behold Your fatherly face.
May his face,
which is departing from our sight,
contemplate your beauty
and commend the flock to You, the eternal Shepherd.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. R. Amen.
There are many biblical references in this prayer, though space does not permit us to explore them all. Note especially what we might call a theology of the face as a metaphor for contemplation and seeking the truth and, by doing so, revealing it to others. In his letter for the special Marian year the Holy Father emphasized learning from Mary how gaze on and contemplate the face of Christ. John Paul’s theology of the person starts from the point that we are made in God’s image and likeness and that Christ came into the world to reveal man more fully to himself (cf. Gaudium et spes 22). We see Christ reflecting the invisible Father in all He said and did and, at the same time, we how we are to be in our lives. To know who we truly are, we must seek Christ’s face so that our lives will always be “hidden in Christ” in death but even in life as well (Cf. Col 1:3). To be true disciples of the Lord of life and death, we must be transparent so that we reflect what flows from God to and through us.
But aside from this theological look at the prayer, our reading of Marini’s "Farewell", leads us to discern some pretty clear ideological motives.
I leave you will a couple quotes from Marini’s letter:
During his Pontificate the papal celebrations thus became for the
particular Churches a sure point of reference for recognizing the face
of the liturgy which the Council wanted. In reality, John Paul II was
not an expert in liturgy in the technical sense, but he entrusted
himself to His Maestro and with his pastoral enthusiasm for
evangelization he became in the Church the most authoritative
interpreter and the most tenacious executor of the liturgy of Vatican
[The rites of the beginning of Benedict XVI’s Petrine Ministry] will remain
fixed in memory and heart because I consider them the most complete and
successful icon which the liturgy has given of the Church after the
Second Vatican Council.