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Catholic World News News Feature

Liturgical discipline needed, Vatican official says July 14, 2006

The Vatican is planning to restore some disciplinary control of the liturgy, according the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in response to widespread abuses.

Speaking to the I Media news agency in Rome, Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don will soon take steps to indicate the importance of following the Church's liturgical guidelines. Asked whether Pope Benedict XVI is preparing a document on the liturgy, Archbishop Ranjith answered indirectly, noting that the Holy Father has written and spoken extensively on liturgical issues in past years. Pope Benedict is keenly aware of today's challenges, he said, and determined to restore a proper sense of reverence to the liturgy. The Sri Lankan prelate said that some of his thoughts had been taken out of context after a previous interview with the French newspaper La Croix. He had not intended to suggest that the liturgical reforms of Vatican II had failed, he stressed; rather, he meant that some liturgical changes had produced an overreaction, and a loss of appreciation for Church traditions. As a result, he said, "the reforms of the Council did not bear the expected fruit, because of the way in which they were interpreted and put into practice." Now, he continued, the great challenge for the Church is to promote a deeper understanding of the liturgical reforms: one in keeping with the constant traditions of Catholicism.

Archbishop Ranjith said that two extremes must be avoided: a liturgical free-for-all in which "every priest of bishop does what he wants, which creates confusion;" or a complete abandonment of liturgical reforms, leading to a vision that is "closed up in the past." Today, he said, those two extremes are becoming more prominent, and the Church needs to establish a middle ground.

Every day, the archbishop disclosed, the Congregation for Divine Worship receives new complaints about serious liturgical abuses, and complaints that local bishops have failed to correct them. If the Church fails to curb these abuses, he said, "people will attend the Tridentine Mass, and our churches will be empty." Liturgical guidelines are set forth clearly, he observed, in the Roman Missal and in Church documents. Now "some discipline is necessary regarding what we do at the altar."

Archbishop Ranjith spoke to I Media after returning from Kumasi, Ghana, where he participated in a workshop about the liturgy in Africa. He reported that Church officials from 23 different African countries took part in the discussions, which centered on questions of translation and inculturation.

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