The other day I posted about Pope Benedict’s message to Italian bishops meeting in Assisi in plenary session. His Holiness spoke of liturgy in terms that I thought were rather strong.
Sandro Magister takes the Holy Father’s words as a rebuke to the Italian bishops.
Here is some of Magister’s take:
The Pope Rattles the Bishops: “Learn from Saint Francis”
He really knew what true liturgical reform is, writes Benedict XVI in a message that is a severe rebuke to the Italian Catholic hierarchy. Where, in the liturgical field, Ratzinger’s opponents continue to prevail
by Sandro Magister
ROME, November 12, 2010 – The last two popes, on numerous occasions, have pointed to the Italian Church and its episcopate as a “model” for other nations.
There is one field, however, in which the Italian Church does not shine. It is that of the liturgy. [I can attest to that!]
This was made clear by the severe lesson that Benedict XVI gave to the Italian bishops gathered in Assisi for their general assembly from November 8-11, an assembly centered on an examination of the new translation of the Roman missal.
In the message that he addressed to the bishops on the eve of the assembly, pope Joseph Ratzinger did not limit himself to greetings and good wishes. He was the one to dictate the criteria of a “true” liturgical reform. [The Bishops of Rome has a special role in the Italian Bishops Conference. He is one of them, but he isn't at all one of them, so to speak. He appoints the President. At the same time, when the Pope reveals his mind to this group of bishops, other groups of bishops would do well to pay attention, even though they don't share the same sort of position.]
“Every true reformer,” he wrote, “is obedient to the faith: he does not act in an arbitrary manner, he does not appropriate any discretion over the rite; he is not the owner, but the custodian of the treasury instituted by the Lord and entrusted to us. The whole Church is present in every liturgy: adhering to its form is a condition of authenticity for what is celebrated.” [Italian bishops cannot simply ignore the universal laws of the Church when it comes to liturgy. That includes Summorum Pontificum, by the way.]
The pope gave as an example of genuine liturgical reform the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which put into the hands of the priests the “Breviary” with the liturgy of the hours, and reinforced the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and wine.
Those were the times of Saint Francis of Assisi. And Benedict XVI dedicated a good part of his message to illustrating for the Italian bishops the spirit with which that great saint obeyed that liturgical reform, and made his friars obey it.
Saint Francis, as is known, is one of the most popular and universally admired saints. He is a model also for those Catholics who want a Church that is more spiritual and “prophetic,” instead of institutional and ritual. In the liturgical field, they are pushing for more creativity and freedom.
But Benedict XVI showed, in the message, that [NB] the real Saint Francis was of a completely different bent. He was profoundly convinced that Christian worship should correspond to the “rule of faith” that has been received, and in this way give form to the Church. The priests, first of all, must base their holiness of life on the “holy things” of the liturgy. [I often say that Benedict has a kind of "Marshall Plan" to revitalize Catholic identity devastated for the last 40 years or so. In this major project of his pontificate, liturgical worship plays a special role. It is the tip of the spear, so to speak. Moreover, you will often see that liberals who oppose Pope Benedict's vision (and indeed a genuine Catholic spirit in general) will sneer at priests and bishops interested in solemn and high liturgical worship. If you ever needed a convincing argument that we need more solemn, careful, traditional transcendent liturgical worship, it should be enough to know that liberals detest it and ridicule those who want it.]
Curiously, the Italian bishops to whom the pope addressed this lesson had gathered this time in none other than Assisi, the city of Francis.
And the bishop of Assisi is Domenico Sorrentino, an expert on the liturgy, but not of an approach like that of Ratzinger. [Ahhhh, yes. Sorrentino. When he was sent to Assisi as ordinary, I was reminded of the old phrase in the Stations of the Cross by St. Alphonsus: "And they closed the tomb, and all withdrew."]
In 2003, Archbishop Sorrentino was appointed secretary of the Vatican congregation for divine worship. But he lasted only two years. Shortly after he became pope, Ratzinger transferred him to Assisi, and replaced him with someone extremely faithful to him in liturgical matters, Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka, today archbishop of Colombo and soon to be named a cardinal.
Before 2003, for five years, the secretary of the congregation for divine worship had been another Italian expert on the liturgy, Francesco Pio Tamburrino, [Ahhh yes, Tamburrino...] a Benedictine monk. But his stance was also contrary to that of the cardinal prefect of the congregation at the time, the “Ratzingerian” Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez. And in fact, he was also removed and transferred to a diocese, that of Foggia. [And that big stone rooooollllls into place.]
Sorrentino and Tamburrino are two prominent figures of the commission for the liturgy of the Italian episcopal conference. But also on this commission, until a short time ago, was Luca Brandolini, bishop of Sora, who distinguished himself by proclaiming a sort of protest “bereavement” when in 2007 Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum,” which liberalized the use of the ancient rite of the Mass.
In electing the members of the commission for the liturgy, the Italian bishops have always given preference to their colleagues of this tendency, whose inspiration comes from the architects of the liturgical reform following Vatican Council II, in particular Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro and the main conceptualizer and executor of that reform, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini. [In other words, diametrically opposed to Papa Ratzinger's vision.]
The negative results of that reform are what Benedict XVI is working against. [As I was saying.] But Paul VI had already seen its abuses, and was so pained by them that in 1975 he removed Bugnini and sent him into exile in Iran as the apostolic nuncio there.
[NB] But the sentiment of the majority of the Italian bishops and clergy continues to be influenced by the “Bugnini line.” The excesses seen in other European Churches are rare in Italy, but the predominant style of celebration is more “assembly-focused” than “turned toward the Lord,” as pope Ratzinger wants it to be. [With a heavy dose of just plain lazy punctuated by syrupy faux-pastoral warmth.]
The Italian episcopal conference is a special case, compared with all the others. It has a direct connection to the bishop of Rome. And in fact, its president is not elected, but appointed by the pope.
Introducing the work of the episcopal conference in Assisi on November 8, the current president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, cited a comment by Ratzinger on the fact that Vatican Council II dedicated its first session precisely to the liturgy:
“By starting with the subject of the liturgy, it unequivocally put in the spotlight the primacy of God, the absolute priority of the topic ‘God’. Before everything, God: this is what starting with the liturgy says. Wherever attention to God is not the deciding factor, everything else loses its orientation.”
But in order to understand more deeply the meaning of the “reform of the reform” desired by pope Ratzinger, the following is what he wrote to the Italian bishops about the liturgy.
The documentation of the assembly of the Italian bishops in Assisi, with the complete text of Benedict XVI’s message.
If there is going to be any meat and bone and blood in this New Evangelization project, and not just the usual jar of runny goo, our liturgical worship must be redirected.
We must rid ourselves of immanentizing tendencies in our worship and reorient ourselves to the transcendent.