What does Pope Francis say in his new apostolic letter on the liturgy?

Pope Francis raises the host during a mass on February 23, 2014. © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Pope Francis released a new apostolic letter on the Wednesday liturgy. The letter, Desiderio desideravideals with “the liturgical formation of the People of God”.

So what does it say? What is the context? And how is it likely to be received? The pillar Explain :

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What the apostolic letter says

Desiderio desideravi was released on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, one of the most important days in the Vatican calendar. The Pope, successor of Saint Peter, traditionally celebrates mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the day of the feast and blesses woolen garments known as palliums to be given to metropolitan archbishops as a sign of communion.

The title of the apostolic letter is taken from a passage in the Gospel of Saint Luke describing the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. In Luke 22:15Jesus said to his disciples, “I have longed [desiderio desideravi] eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

The letter, approximately 11,000 words in English and divided into 65 numbered paragraphs, is addressed to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women and lay people. In other words, to all Catholics. The pope underscores this in his opening sentence, saying he wants to share “some thoughts on the liturgy” with all members of the Church.

Pope Francis says his observations are not “exhaustive” and simply want to “offer prompts or clues for reflection that can help in the contemplation of the beauty and truth of Christian celebration.”

The letter opens with a reflection on the Last Supper. The pope then recalls the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the liturgy. He says that the Ecumenical Council of 1962-65 enabled “the rediscovery of a theological understanding of the liturgy and its importance in the life of the Church”.

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“With this letter, I simply want to invite the whole Church to rediscover, safeguard and live the truth and power of Christian celebration,” he wrote.

He then suggests that the liturgy is an “antidote” to “distorted forms of Christianity,” including Gnosticism and Neo-Pelagianism, two dangers he described at length in his 2013 book. apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

The pope calls for a rediscovery of “the beauty of the truth of Christian celebration”, noting that this does not mean “the search for a ritual aesthetic that is content with the only attentive outward observance of a rite or is satisfied with ‘a scrupulous respect of headings’.

He urges Catholics to cultivate a sense of “astonishment at the paschal mystery.”

The pope says the goal of Vatican II was to help Catholics “live liturgical action to the full.” He says this requires liturgical training because many modern people have “lost the ability to engage in symbolic action, which is an essential feature of the liturgical act.”

Pope Francis argues that the divisions over liturgical reforms after the Council are “primarily ecclesiological”.

“I do not see how it is possible to say that one recognizes the validity of the Council — although it surprises me that a Catholic can presume not to do so — and at the same time not to accept the liturgical reform born of Sacrosanctum conciliuma document which expresses the reality of the liturgy intimately linked to the vision of the Church so admirably described in Lumen gentiumwrites the pope.

He adds that this is why he published Custodian traditions, its 2021 apostolic letter imposing strict restrictions on “the use of the Roman liturgy before the reform of 1970”.

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The pope then outlines his vision for a “serious and dynamic liturgical formation”, drawing inspiration from the work of Romano Guardini (1885-1968), the Italian-born German theologian who wrote the influential book “The Spirit of the Liturgy.”

Pope Francis stresses that the Eucharistic celebration must be at the heart of the life of the seminary. He says that “in addition to a curriculum, [seminaries] must also offer the possibility of experiencing a celebration that is not only exemplary from a ritual point of view, but also authentic and lively.

He explains that the liturgy is not primarily a matter of knowledge, but “of praise, of thanksgiving for the Passover of the Son whose power reaches our lives.” He then examines the means by which Catholics can be “initiated into symbolic language”.

The pope offers an in-depth reflection on the ars celebrandi, or the art of celebrating the liturgy. He cautions against both the “rubric mechanism” and “imaginative – sometimes wild – creativity”. He emphasizes the importance of knowledge, preparation and silence.

He notes that lay people too can contribute to refining the ars celebrandi by their own words and gestures during Mass.

The pope says he has seen various negative “patterns” of presiding over the liturgy during his travels, including “rigid austerity or exasperating creativity, spiritualizing mysticism or practical functionalism, hasty liveliness or exaggerated slowness, sloppy recklessness or excessive fussiness, overabundant friendliness or priestly impassivity.

He says the common fault is “an exacerbated personalism of the party style which sometimes expresses a poorly concealed mania for being the center of attention”.

“Often this becomes more evident when our celebrations are transmitted over the air or online, which is not always timely and requires further consideration,” he notes.

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In conclusion, Pope Francis invites Catholics to rediscover the richness of Sacrosanctum conciliumVatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

“For this reason, we cannot return to this ritual form which the Council engendered, with Petro and sub Petro [with Peter and under Peter]felt the need to reform, approving, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and according to their conscience as pastors, the principles from which the reform was born,” he writes.

“The Holy Pontiffs Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, approving the reformed liturgical books ex decreto Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II [by decree of Vatican II], guaranteed the fidelity of the reform of the Council. For this reason I wrote Traditional custodiansso that the Church raises, in the variety of so many languages, one and the same prayer capable of expressing her unity.

He emphasizes his determination “that this unity be re-established throughout the Church of the Roman Rite”.

After an exhortation to “abandon our polemics” and “safeguard our communion,” the letter ends with a quote from the pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

Cardinal-designate Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, photographed October 12, 2012. © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

What is the context?

In the first years of his pontificate, Francis seems to pay little attention to the liturgy. But over the past year or so, he seems to have made it a high priority.

Days after returning from the Vatican after colon surgery in July 2021, he posted Traditional custodians (“Keepers of tradition”). In an accompaniment letter to world bishops, he explained that he was issuing the document “in defense of the unity of the Body of Christ.”

The pope said he was “saddened that the instrumental use of roman missal of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of liturgical reform, but of the Second Vatican Council itself, claiming, with unfounded and untenable assertions, that it betrayed Tradition and the “true Church”.

He maintained that “to doubt the Council is to doubt the intentions of those same Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner with Petro and sub Petro in an ecumenical council, and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.

The apostolic letter was followed shortly before Christmas 2021 by a document known as the Answer ad dubia (“Answers to doubts”), answer the questions on the implementation of Traditional custodians.

The text, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, answered 11 questions with the words “affirmative” or “negative”, followed by a brief explanation. The document was seen as reinforcing the restrictions contained in Traditionis custodes.

As Traditional custodians came into effect immediately on the day of its publication, the bishops of the world had no preparation time to consider how to promulgate its principles in their dioceses. So they reacted at varying speeds. Almost a year after the publication of the letter, many American dioceses are I am still working on their projects.

In May of this year, Bishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Told the spanish magazine Omnes that his dicastery was preparing a document on liturgical formation.

Rock, who goes receive a cardinal’s red hat on August 27, said there was a lack of liturgical formation in the contemporary Church.

“It is very interesting to remember that in the years preceding the Council, there was the liturgical movement, with a patristic, biblical, ecumenical foundation; and the Council offered the possibility of a renewal of the Church, also with regard to the liturgy,” he commented.

“I think at the moment the only thing that is sought is the fulfillment of the rubrics of the liturgy, and that seems a bit poor to me. Theologically, the reason was the celebration of the Mystery.

“That is why, two years ago, the Holy Father asked this Congregation to hold a plenary meeting of all its members to discuss liturgical formation throughout the Church: from bishops to priests to laity”.

He said the text would address questions such as “What do we do when we come together every Sunday for this celebration? Not just an obligation to do something every week, but what do we do? What are we celebrating at this time?

Westminster Cathedral in London, England, photographed February 5, 2022 © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

How is it likely to be received?

The reception of Desiderio desideravi will probably follow the same lines as Traditional custodians and the Answer ad dubia. It will be welcomed by those who appreciate the vernacular liturgy introduced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and criticized by followers of the traditional Latin Mass.

Traditionalists, however, may appreciate certain parts of the letter and its general emphasis on the importance of the liturgy.

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