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Papal liturgical ceremonies under review March 20, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI is reviewing plans for papal liturgical celebrations, the Vatican's top liturgist has disclosed.

Archbishop Piero Marini, the master of ceremonies for papal liturgies, spoke to the Italian internet site on March 20, during a visist to Milan for the publication of his book, Liturgy and Beauty. Archbishop Marini revealed that Pope Benedict XVI has been more demanding than his predecessor in watching plans for liturgical celebrations at the Vatican.

"With John Paul II I had a bit more freedom," the Italian prelate told the Affaritaliani.it web site. "We had an implicit pact, because he was a man of prayer and not a liturgist." With the new Pope, he continued, "I have to be a bit more attentive, because he is an expert on liturgy."

The master of papal ceremonies said that he and the Pope are now carrying out a re-examination of papal liturgical celebrations. He reported that he regularly sends his notes to the Pontiff, who returns them with corrections, suggestions, or a note of approval.

Since 1987, Archbishop Marini has made plans for all major papal liturgical celebrations. During that time he has become a figure of some controversy at the Vatican, with some prelates objecting to the ceremonies he has devised. For instance, after canonization ceremonies that incorporated traditional African and Indian dance elements in October 2003, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, spoke of "uncontrolled creativity" and a "too fertile imagination." Archbishop Marini has also been criticized for downgrading the use of Gregorian chant and polyphony in favor of more contemporary and popular music.

Archbishop Marini became involved in liturgical affairs as a young priest, serving as personal secretary to the late Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the principal architect of liturgical changes in the wake of Vatican II. His approach has been criticized by those who favor a more traditional approach-- including, in the past, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The history of past disagreements between the current Pope and his chief liturgist have caused Vatican-watchers to predict that Archbishop Marini would soon be replaced as the papal master of ceremonies. But nearly a year after the Pope's election he remains at his post.

In his interview with the Affaritaliani site, Archbishop Marini offered a blunt comment on prospects for reconciliation between the Holy See and the traditionalist Society for St. Pius X. The schism can be repaired, he said, only "if the Lefebvrists accept totally the Second Vatican Council and its teachings." Otherwise, he said, "there is nothing to be done."

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