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Archbishop Arthur Roche: “Soon, a document on the liturgical formation of all the baptized”

rthur Roche’s first year at the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship has been a busy one. The publication of Traditionis custodes and of a Letter of the Pope to the bishops on the Tridentine liturgy was followed by a clarification of the doubts raised, signed by Archbishop Roche. The Prefect thinks that a deeper liturgical formation of all the baptized is needed, and confirms the forthcoming publication of a document to promote it.

Alfonso Riobó·12 de septiembre de 2022·Tiempo de lectura: 9 minutos
roche

Original Text of the article in Spanish here

It has been a year since Archbishop Arthur Roche became Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, where he had already been working since 2012. In this year, much of the Dicastery’s work has revolved around the new norms restricting the possibility of using the liturgical form predating the reform of the 1960s (the “Tridentine Mass”), and the creation of the new lay ministry of catechist. Now, Archbishop Roche received Omnes at the headquarters of the Congregation, and takes stock of these and other issues.

Almost a year ago now, Traditionis custodes limited the possibilities of using the liturgy predating the Council reform. The document explained that its aim was to “seek ecclesial communion.” Has progress been made toward that goal?

– I should begin by saying that the reason behind this decision is the unity of the Church, and that’s what moved the Pope. The previous Popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, never thought that the existing possibilities had the objective of promoting the Tridentine rite, but only for the good of the people who have difficulty with the new form of the Church’s prayer.

But, in the end, we’re formed by the liturgy, because the liturgy carries the faith and doctrine of the Church in itself: Lex orandi, lex credendi. Really, I don’t think this is just a problem for the liturgy, but a problem for ecclesiology, for doctrine. For the first time in history, since the Second Vatican Council, we have in the Magisterium a statement of the nature of the Church, because after two thousand years it’s the first time that we’ve had a dogmatic constitution such as Lumen gentium. Lumen gentium presupposes that it isn’t only the priest who celebrates Mass, but all the baptized. Obviously, they can’t do what concerns the consecration of the Eucharistic species without the priest; but all the baptized, like the priest, have a place in the celebration; all of them participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. And so, as Sacrosanctum concilium reminds us, they have the right and duty to participate in the liturgy. This is in contrast to the rite in the 1962 missal, where the priest was seen as the representative of everyone else present at the celebration of the Mass. This is the great difference between the two forms: the Church as it is understood in today’s ecclesiology, and the nature of the Church as it was conceived by previous ecclesiology.

At the same time, Traditionis custodes stresses the continuity between the present rite and the ancient rite: it states that the new Roman Missal “contains all the elements of the Roman rite, especially the Roman canon, which is one of the most characteristic elements.”

– Of course, we also have to emphasize the continuity. The liturgy is a living gift that the Church has received. But we can’t canonize the old for old’s sake: otherwise we’ll have people who want to go back to things simply because they’re older, and that could mean going back to liturgical expressions that predate even the Tridentine Mass, for example. In fact, the point we’re at now, with the new missal of Paul VI, means that we’ve been able to study all the most fundamental elements, to make use of sources for the liturgy which were unknown during the Council of Trent, in the years 1545–1563.

Pope Francis has said that he is “pained by the abuses” in some current celebrations. What do you think about this?

– I think there’s a lack of liturgical formation at the moment. It’s good to remember that in the years before the Council we had the liturgical movement, with a patristic, biblical and ecumenical foundation; and the Council was there to offer the possibility of a renewal of the Church, also with regard to the liturgy.

I think that at the moment, the only thing people are looking for is to fulfill the rubrics of the Liturgy, and that seems a bit poor to me. Theologically, the reason for the rubrics was the celebration of the Mystery.

That’s why, two years ago, the Holy Father asked our Congregation to hold a plenary meeting of all its members to discuss liturgical formation in the whole Church: from bishops to priests to laity. And in fact, a document on this subject is currently in preparation. It may take the form of a letter to the Church on the importance of formation. What are we doing when we come together every Sunday for this celebration? What’s the meaning of this coming together? It’s not just an obligation to do something every week; what are we doing? What are we celebrating at that moment?

Will it be easy to get the content of this letter across to the laity, to the people in general?

– As you know, on the occasion of the publication of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis wrote a letter just to the bishops, explaining what they should do. I believe that, this time, we in the Congregation have the responsibility to think about how to reach a wider audience.

“Mystagogical” catechesis, which introduces the mysteries being celebrated, is one of the instruments of liturgical formation. The sacraments—Baptism, first Holy Communion or Marriage—are a special occasion. Do they fulfill this role?

– Mystagogical catechesis is very important. There’s a paragraph in Sacrosanctum Concilium—number sixteen—which says that liturgical formation is among the most important subjects in the formation of seminarians, and that teachers of other subjects must take it into account when they’re teaching biblical, patristic, dogmatic, and other subjects.

There’s an abbey in America—Mount Angel, near Portland—where all the subjects of theological formation in the seminary period always have the focus on the liturgy of the day. Everything is oriented according to the great seasons of the liturgy, the liturgical calendar. We have to consider this also in relation to formation: that it’s about celebration. It’s not just a matter of doing things or participating in some parts of the celebration, but of celebrating worthily, with a profound and active participation, as the Council reminded us. Through words and gestures we reach the mystery. Rather than being involved in activities, such as reading the readings or other things, we should be striving for a deep, quasi-mystical participation, coming from our contemplation of the liturgy. It’s a matter of identifying with Christ through the words and gestures of the celebration.

The sacrament of Penance is a reference point of this pontificate. Francis spoke of mercy and forgiveness from the beginning; he has invited people to celebrations of confession, and other, similar gestures. How can we revalue this sacrament?

– I think it’s obvious that the sacrament of Penance is, in a way, in a period of crisis at the moment, because there’s a loss of the sense of sin. There aren’t fewer sins committed today than they were before, but there’s a lack of knowledge about personal sin; I think it’s a challenge for a lot of people. The Pope as a great pastor, before his election as Pope, already saw this in his diocese, in the parishes and in his pastoral work.

Let me tell you an interesting experience I had: some years ago I received an invitation from the Sacred Penitentiary to give a conference for the deacons who were preparing to receive priestly ordination. When I arrived, I saw that there were five hundred people attending, so I asked Cardinal Piacenza: Are there so many to be ordained this year? No, that wasn’t it: almost two-thirds of those attending were already ordained priests, and they had come to this course—in some cases after many years of ordination—to learn again how to celebrate the sacrament of Penance. That tells us there is a lack of formation of priests. Specifically, for the sacrament of Confession, the priest has to be available: not only in terms of dedication of time, but also with the availability of someone who welcomes penitents, who speaks of mercy, who speaks as a father to someone who needs to be reconciled with God. All these elements are very important, but they’re also integral elements of formation.

How is the ministry of catechist, which was established on May 10 last year, evolving in its first steps?

– At this stage. the most important thing is for the Episcopal Conferences to define who the catechists are. It’s a ministry, not just a participation in the ministry as we already have in every parish in the world, where there are people who prepare the children for their first Holy Communion, Confession, and so on. This is a more important ministry, but it’s one that needs to be defined. The person who receives this ministry will be a point of reference in the diocese, for the organization of programs, levels, etc., but that depends on how the bishop defines it. So it’s now the responsibility of the bishops’ conferences.

There are, for example, some religious women who develop their apostolate of catechesis… but this ministry isn’t foreseen for them. Even more important: nor is it foreseen for seminarians who are preparing for the priesthood. They receive the ministries of acolyte and lector, and then the diaconate, but this ministry of catechist isn’t foreseen for them: it’s only for the lay baptized in general. For the Church it’s a sign of the importance of the laity in announcing the Gospel and forming young people.

Let’s talk about other aspects of the work of the Congregation for the Liturgy. The Constitution Prædicate Evangelium stresses that it promotes the liturgy “according to the renewal undertaken by the Second Vatican Council.”

– Certainly, one of its tasks is to promote the liturgy. At the same time, it’s also to be a point of reference for all the bishops of the world in their relationship with the Petrine ministry. The Congregation (or as it will be, the Dicastery) is there to serve not only the Supreme Pontiff, but also all the bishops of the world, in the field of liturgy. And this is a dimension that we must consider carefully. It’s an opening of the Roman Curia, which should be understood not as a bureaucratic structure, but as a service to the universal Church.

How does it collaborate with other Dicasteries?

– As far as its competencies are concerned, it collaborates with all the bodies of the Curia, from the Doctrine of the Faith to the Clergy, and almost all the others. The New Evangelization, the Missions, the Practice of Charity, and all other activities also have a liturgical aspect. For the liturgy is the life of the whole Church; it’s the soul of the Church.

It will soon be sixty years since Sacrosanctum Concilium. This Council document on liturgy wanted the Paschal mystery to become the center of Christian life. How do you approach it today?

– Sixty years is a short time in the history of the Church. After Trent, there was a long period in which there were difficult circumstances for the whole Church to receive the reform—a reform is a serious thing! But we also have many difficulties now.

A big difficulty for the Church is the increase of individualism. People decide what they want as individuals, not as part of a community. Now, the Church is a community, and she celebrates all the sacraments as a community; among them, also the Mass, because it’s not foreseen that it should be celebrated without the presence of anyone else, and normally the faithful will congregate in large numbers.

At this time, the liberalism and individualism that exist in our society are a challenge for the Church. It’s easy to think in terms of my personal preference, of a specific type of liturgy, of a particular way of carrying out the celebration, of this priest rather than that priest; but this individualism isn’t part of the Church’s character. And we have to think of the effects of these influences on the spiritual life of the Church, as is clearly underlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium, and also in Lumen gentium.

Has the pandemic reinforced the tendency to individualism?

– I think that this tendency won’t last forever, because we know that we have the need to relate to God and to others within us, and it isn’t something that we can push away indefinitely, through television or the internet. We need to be present at the celebration: the sacraments are about a personal relationship with Christ, and are not a program or a movie. Online or on television we follow something for a moment, but we’re not there; we can see everything, but we’re not present, and that’s the most important thing: the presence of the people.

Let me ask about two particular aspects of Sacrosanctum Concilium. The first is liturgical inculturation.

– That means that there are some cultures, in certain societies outside Europe, especially in mission countries, where the Roman rite can be enriched with the genius of the place; but it isn’t always easy.

On this subject, I’ve often told the bishops that we spent the last fifty years preparing the translation of the liturgical texts; and now we must move on to the second phase, which was already foreseen by Sacrosanctum Concilium, and that is the inculturation or adaptation of the liturgy to other, different cultures, while maintaining unity. I think now is the time for this work to begin. But I’d like to point out that, so far, there’s only one liturgical “use” (not “rite”), and that is in Congo, in Africa.

It’s important to understand what it means that Jesus shared our nature, at a particular historical moment. We have to consider the importance of the Incarnation and, if I can put it like this, of the action of grace being incarnated in other cultures, with various expressions that are completely different from what we’ve seen and appreciated in Europe for so many years.

The second aspect is beauty, particularly in sacred architecture. The Pope says “the Church evangelizes and evangelizes herself through the beauty of the liturgy” (Evangelii gaudium, n. 24).

– Beauty is part of God’s nature, and part of human existence. It’s very important for human beings, because it attracts them: we’re attracted by beauty. And it speaks to us not only in a unique way, but also individually.

This aspect of the liturgy—also regarding churches—was foreseen by the documents issued immediately after the approval of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and was also supported by the bishops participating in the Council. These texts indicated what was to be taken into account in constructing the church, so that would help the celebration, and the meaning and importance of the various elements. I’m thinking, for example, of the altar, which signifies the Body of Christ; for the Orthodox it’s the tomb, and so the Resurrection belongs to the celebration of the Eucharist. Or the importance of the ambo, both in itself and in relation to the altar. In our celebrations we have two “tables”, Sacred Scripture and the Holy Eucharist; but without Sacred Scripture we can’t have the Eucharist. The two have to be in equilibrium, and both are the same thing. The Word leads to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is deepened and understood through the Word.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

– Yes: I think it’s very important that right now we should think once again about the voice of the Council to the whole world, which was a prophetic voice for the future of the Church. And that we go more deeply into what is contained in Sacrosanctum Concilium, and also the other documents but especially Lumen gentium, about the holiness of the Church and our vocation; because without holiness we won’t have an authentic voice to preach the Gospel.

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