“the time has come for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform and also a return to the true liturgy of the Church”

A friend and I have been talking about the provisions of Summorum Pontificum and the need to press press press them forward again.  We need to keep pressing and working.

On that note, I was delighted to read at NLM that Card. Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo (former secretary of the CDW) sent a letter to a meeting of Una Voce in Rome, voicing much the same sentiment.  Here is the body of the text of the letter from Card. Ranjith.  My emphases and comments.

I wish to express first of all, my gratitude to all of you for the zeal and enthusiasm with which you promote the cause of the restoration of the true liturgical traditions of the Church.

As you know, it is worship that enhances faith and its heroic realization in life. It is the means with which human beings are lifted up to the level of the transcendent and eternal: the place of a profound encounter between God and man. [It’s nice to see him use that word “encounter”.  I am forever harping about encountering mystery, experiencing the transcendent in our liturgical worship. If our worship doesn’t bring us to an encounter with mystery, it has failed in an important way.]

Liturgy for this reason can never be what man creates. For if we worship the way we want and fix the rules ourselves, then we run the risk of recreating Aaron’s golden calf. [Classic Ratzinger, by the way. He wroe with that same image in one of his books. When we make it up, and what we turn out reflects ourselves, we are engaged in idolatry. The problem is that the Jews KNEW their golden calf wasn’t a “god”. They KNEW it was less than the Most High. They made it because they didn’t want the challenge of what the TRUE God asked. That is what happens when we stray from our true liturgical worship or distort it into something easy, comfortable, familiar. Liturgy should also involve the extremely difficult, the apophatic, something frightening which remains nevertheless alluring.]

We ought to constantly insist on worship as participation in what God Himself does, else we run the risk of engaging in idolatry. Liturgical symbolism helps us to rise above what is human to what is divine. [WATCH THIS!] In this, it is my firm conviction that the Vetus Ordo represents to a great extent and in the most fulfilling way that mystical and transcendent call to an encounter with God in the liturgy.

Hence the time has come for us to not only renew through radical changes the content of the new Liturgy, but also to encourage more and more a return of the Vetus Ordo, as a way for a true renewal of the Church, which was what the Fathers of the Church seated in the Second Vatican Council so desired. [Did you see that?  A renewal not just of our worship but of the Church! This is EXACTLY what I have been talking about for years! The Holy Father’s “Marshall Plan” must begin with a revitalization of our worship. Not initiative of renewal can be successful without a revitalization of our worship. I think, and apparently Card. Ranjith thinks, that the Extraordinary Form, the Vetus Ordo, is a key o that renewal.]

The careful reading of the Conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilum shows that the rash changes introduced to the Liturgy later on, were never in the minds of the Fathers of the Council.

Hence the time has come for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform and also a return to the true liturgy of the Church, which had developed over its bi-millenial history in a continuous flow. I wish and pray that, that would happen.

May God bless your efforts with success.

+Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
Archbishop of Colombo

WDTPRS kudos to Cardinal Ranjith!

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  1. Kudos to Cardinal Ranjith.

  2. maynardus says:

    Wow, Ranjith is about as blunt as they get. And as you note bits of it sound very ‘Ratzingerian’, in fact my first thought was: “why isn’t the Pope saying these things himself?” Upon reflection I realized that these sentiments may be more effective coming from a Ranjith at this point than directly from the Holy Father. One cannot help thinking that while his words were addressed to the G.A. of the F.I.U.V. they were certainly intended for a wider audience. Now we shall see what sort of responses are elicited, what discussions are sparked, and what follow-up there will be…

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  4. Centristian says:

    “Hence the time has come for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform and also a return to the true liturgy of the Church, which had developed over its bi-millenial history in a continuous flow. I wish and pray that, that would happen.”

    Want to be courageous? Then stop wishing and start commanding. With all due respect to His Eminence, today’s clergy won’t yield to cardinals’ wishes (or popes’ either) expressed in letters written to people who already agree with them. Una Voce? Come now. Preaching to the choir is useless. Concrete directives need to be issued universally at this point. Wishes and words from on high are nice but what effect do they have in the average parish? In my parish? In your parish? Nadda.

    Yes, be courageous. Please. That’s what we’re waiting for. And waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

  5. Supertradmum says:

    I am sending this on to a contact of an Archbishop who needs to open up his diocese to the Vetus Ordo.

    Moving and true statement. God bless him with thousands of new vocations in his diocese.

  6. Prof. Basto says:

    The letter includes two different points:

    1) The “Vetus Ordo” is hailed as “the true liturgy of the Church” . The call to a” RETURN to the true liturgy of the Church” means that the Novus Ordo is not fulfilling that role, or better, that the Novus Ordo cannot fulfill it. The letter implies that the Novus Ordo is not “the true liturgy of the Church”. The Cardinal’s charge that liturgy cannot be man made is contrasted with his recognition that the Vetus Ordo developed over two millenia. Implicitly, the Novus Ordo, quicly created by liturgical comittee in the 1960’s, comes to mind as a “man made liturgy”. One cannot therefore fail to reach the conclusion that Novus Ordo itself is the metaphorical Golden Calf to which the Cardinal alludes (the generation of Churchmen that created the Novus Ordo wanted to pray the way they wanted, they wanted to fix the rules themselves; and further, the Novus Ordo in its practical application involves priests everywhere fixing the rules themselves; perhaps they feel invited to do so given the multiplication of options and formulae that the rite contains), while the Vetus Ordo is rightly commended by the Cardinal as representing “to a great extent and in the most fulfilling way that mystical and transcendent call to an encounter with God in the liturgy”.

    2) But Cardinal Ranjith does more than simply promote the Vetus Ordo. The Cardinal points out that the “The careful reading of the Conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilum shows that the rash changes introduced to the Liturgy later on, were never in the minds of the Fathers of the Council”. That is to say, in the Cardinal’s opinion, not only the Novus Ordo fails to represent the “true liturgy of the Church”, but it also fails to be faithful to the Conciliar mandate for liturgical reform. Hence a reform of the reform is necessary. But Cardinal Ranjith speaks not of any reform, not of partial reforms, or simple, cosmetic reforms. Instead, and that is very significant, his Letter calls for “RADICAL CHANGES” to the content of the new Liturgy.

    This call for a RADICAL reform of the Novus Ordo, a “a true reform of the reform” with substantial modifications in the content of the new Liturgy, is in my opinion the most impressive aspect of this letter. Clearly, this work of radical revision of the Novus Ordo needs yet to begin.


    To say the truth, the Benedictine reforms have so far been mostly superficial in this area, and involving leadership by example only (vestments worn, placement of candles, choice of music, demeanour during the celebration, etc; mostly matters of ars celebrandi). But the structural deficiencies of the Novus Ordo have not been dealt with.

    The need to reintroduce a meaningful Offertory, for instance, the need to reduce options and formulae; to reduce the number of Eucharistic prayers; the need to reppeal Communion in the Hand and to make Communion kneeling universal; the necessary reppeal of local indults that allow for an acclamation after each paragraph of the Eucharistic prayer are only the simplest reforms. More profound reforms such as the reintroduction of the Introit as it exists in the Vetus Ordo (Antiphon + part of Psalm + Gloria Patri + Antiphon) as the only option; the reintroduction of a one-year cycle of readings; a reform, or rather restoration, of the ancient rites of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Consecration of Churches, blessings, etc, that are so much superior when compared to the reformed rites, are also necessary.

    Surely a true reform of the reform will need to involve high profile legislation and even replacement of liturgical books. And not the current books of the OF, but the books of the EF, should be used as the starting point for any reform of the reform.

    And any reformed Novus Ordo must not be a synthesis between the OF and the EF. Instead, one should simply “start over” the work of implementing the Conciliar liturgical reforms, this time with the correct spirit of continuity: one should take the 1962 books as the norm and as the starting point of reform, and then apply to them the limited reforms mentioned in Conciliar Constitution, perhaps also reppealing some parts of the Conciliar Constitution that have proved unwise. And the result of the “reform of the reform”, the “reformed OF”, should not replace the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, but should instead continue to coexist alongside the EF as it exists today.

  7. mrose says:

    Prof. Basto,

    Many eminent thoughts you have expressed! However, one question: why should the 1962 books be the “norm and starting point.” I understand that they are the latest edition of the TLM, and the set referenced by Summorum, but Bugnini’s evil hand is there too, especially with Holy Week. I see no reason why the pre-1955 Holy Week liturgies could not be resurrected, but still celebrating the liturgies at the proper times of day as the “reforms” accomplished.

    I understand that lots of work must be done and that 1962 books are eminently superior to the novus ordo, etc.; but I also hope for a full cleansing of Bugnini’s filth.

  8. Prof. Basto says:


    I was just trying to say that the current OF should NOT be the starting point for any reform or renewal of the Novus Ordo; instead the Vetus Ordo should be the starting point. Hence my reference to 1962.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Prof. Basto.

    Your reading of the text above is excellent and complete. However, I would deviate from your conclusion and state that yet another reform is not needed. Indeed, what is needed is a complete return to the EF and that, in my reading, is what the Cardinal wants as well. In my lifetime, I have experienced too many attempts to make radical changes to the Liturgy, including the changes to the participatory Mass, the changes of the Easter Vigil, etc. which predated Vatican II by many years (1955) and the changes afterwards. We do not need more change; we need more stability and continuity, which is found alone in the EF. In fact, Cardinal Ranjith’s speech could have been written by Bishop Fellay. Another change, no matter how studied and how much based on the 1962 Mass, is, in my opinion, a waste of energy and time. The other restorations you mention must occur if the spirituality of the Church is to be preserved and passed on to the next generation. I agree with you wholeheartedly on that list of restorations, but I would add the ancient, Latin Rite of Exorcism to the list.

  10. Prof. Basto says:


    I completely agree with your proposal regarding Holy Week. Unfortunately, however, this cannot be done today. Hopefully, however, one day the competent ecclesiastical authority will restore the Holy Week liturgy to its former glory.

  11. Gail F says:

    I have never heard the term Vetus Ordo before. As far as the question “why hasn’t the pope said this” goes, he pretty much HAS said it — in so many words. At least I have read him saying it loud and clear. But what he is not saying is an exclusive return to the TLM. He is saying that it should be the standard and that the NO should be another form of it — not a whole weird disconnected thing of its own. I am with the pope on that 100% and furthermore I think it is happening (the church reforming itself yet again). TLM is not coming back universally, but it is coming back in a big way. That is the future — a vibrant and large TLM alongside a renewed and perfected NO.

  12. esiul says:

    WOW, this is music to my ears!

  13. I regard myself as fully devoted to the Roman rite in both forms (even though on Sundays I attend only the EF). I especially love the textual richness of the OF, e.g., with its many additional orations and prefaces, whose beauty is at long last visible to all in the new English translation.

    However, it is arguable that the Church cannot put the “deformations” of recent decades behind until it recognizes that the Novus Ordo–in its prevalent practice at parish level–has led to a catastrophic collapse of faith and morality that could not have been previously envisioned. And that this crisis cannot be rectified merely by twiddling with the text of the OF, adding or changing this prayer or that (such as a fuller offertory rite). For (I believe) its text in itself is an adequate (if not ideal) expression of the historical Roman rite.

    What’s required is a return to proper practice (ars celebranda) and universal understanding of the Mass as the re-presentation (NOT representation) of the Sacrifice of the Cross (which would eliminate abuse and distortion of the Mass). The fact that these are both implicit and explicit in the EF–taken as a whole with both its text and its ritual (the latter lacking in the OF)–is why some see a return to the EF as the only effective solution to the present crisis. My best personal guess is that this will happen (after I’m gone) not through an abrupt change of form, but through organic evolution of the ordinary form with the result that it winds up looking in practice like a gloriously renewed version of the TLM (as the Council obviously intended) that permits both largely vernacular and traditional Latin celebration.

  14. irishgirl says:

    Gail F-I also have never heard the term ‘Vetus Ordo’. This is the first time I’ve seen it here.
    But His Eminence has it right on the money! Bravo!

  15. leonugent2005 says:

    Finally, Cardinal Ranjith has opined we can only wait and see.

  16. dspecht says:

    Gail F.

    No, it is not what the Pope said.

    Therefore Ranjith also uses a term – as you saw quite right – that is uncommon or better: uncommon in the conservative – neoconservative mainstream but used by traditionalists as the sspx and others: Vetus Ordo.
    No, the Pope spoke and speaks of the “extraordinary form” vs. the “ordinary” [puhh!].

    Ranjith speaks of the Vetus ordo [vs. the Novus], terms often used by traditionalists.

    So you and aswell the irishgirl do not know the term because it is not used by the Pope and the conservatives, but only by traditionalists.

    But more – and here come to DYNAMITE, the UNBELIEVEABLE (that aslo Fr. Z. did not stress and the Pope did/does NOT say), he speaks about the old liturgy as the TRUE (!) liturgical tradition and even more, the TRUE LITURGY of THE CHURCH, to that we must RETURN!!! (By a – RADICAL [!!!] – REFORM of the REFORM.)

    That´s DYNAMITE. So he says (implicitly) that the Novus Ordo is NOT a true liturgy of the Church!!! We have to RETURN to THE TRUE LITURGY of THE CHURCH!! — WOW!!!!!

    That has the Pope never said, that has F. Z. – like other conservatives – never said.
    That is what traditionalists like sspx´ers or sedes say.

    Well, I really wonder that His Em. says it — because: how can he celebrate a liturgy, that he himslefe sees not as a true liturgy of the Church??

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