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Catholic World News News Feature

Vatican liturgical official seeks recovery of the sacred June 23, 2006

The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship has conceded some "negative results" of liturgical changes since Vatican II, and voiced his support for reform of the post-conciliar liturgy, in an interview with the I Media news agency.

Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don told I Media that the Council fathers had hoped to reinvigorate the sense of an active encounter with God through the liturgy. "But unfortunately," he said, "after the Council, certain changes were made rapidly, without reflection, in a burst of enthusiasm, in a rejection of some exaggerations of the past." The result, the archbishop said, was quite different from the Council's intent.

Asked to provide some examples of the negative results, the Sri Lankan prelate listed "the abandonment of the sacred and the mystical," the confusion between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ordained ministry, and the concept of the Eucharist as a common banquet rather than a representation of Christ's Sacrifice.

These changes, Archbishop Patabendige Don said, have produced negative consequences for the Church even beyond the liturgy. In the face of a growing secular trend in society, he said, the Church urgently needs to cultivate a deeper sense of the sacred and a more active interior life. Fortunately, the archbishop said, there is a growing sense among Catholics of the need to recover the sense of the sacred. He said that the work of the Congregation for Divine Worship entails helping bishops and episcopal conferences to refine the liturgy by incorporating the strengths of the past.

Asked whether he was hinting at approval of the use of the old Missal of St. Pius V, the Sri Lankan archbishop said that the requests for the use of the pre-conciliar liturgy have become more common. But the question is in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI, he said. "The Pope knows all this," he said; "he knows the questions, he is very conscious of the situation, he is reflecting, and we are waiting for his indications."

Archbishop Patabendige Don adds that the use of the Tridentine rite "has never been abolished or banned." However, he said, because of the split in the Church caused by the traditionalist followers of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, the old Mass "has taken a certain identity that is not right."

Whether Pope Benedict will now encourage the use of the Missal of St. Pius V, or call for a reform of the 1962 Missal-- "what some people call 'the reform of the reform'"-- is not yet known, the archbishop said. What is established, he said, is the need for a liturgy that is "more beautiful, more transcendent." The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship cautioned that it is imprudent to press for quick decisions, running the risk of falling into new errors because of haste. "We have to reflect a great deal," he said; "and above all, we have to pray for the Holy Father and the Church, and listen to what the Lord wants of us."

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