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Sri Lankan cardinal emphasizes role of Latin in liturgy

Catholic World News - July 22, 2013

At a recent liturgical conference in Rome, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka “underlined the importance of Latin in the liturgy and did this, interestingly, as the bishop of a diocese whose native language has no Latin roots,” said Dom Alcuin Reid, the conference’s principal organizer. “Yet even for such a people, he pointed out, it serves to enhance people’s connection with Christ in the liturgy.”

In his keynote address, Cardinal Ranjith, the former Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, also criticized “a kind of false archaeologism which echoed the slogan: ‘let us go back to the liturgy of the early Church.’”

Summarizing the tenor of the conference, Reid added that

the fundamental reform that is needed is a reform of our understanding of the liturgy itself: what is it? What is Catholic liturgy? If we understand this and imbibe its sprit, if we study the liturgical theology of the Second Vatican Council, of Pius XII’s Mediator Dei, of the popes and authors before that, we discover that they are as one in asserting that the sacred liturgy is the continuing salvific action of Christ in his Church in which we participate by means of our baptism and give Almighty God the worship that is his due. The liturgy is not about us, as Cardinal Ratzinger once said, but about God.

If we have this fundamental orientation correct then the “problems” of liturgical rites, ministries, music, architecture, vesture, language, and so on can be viewed in a clearer light. If I come to the liturgy—cleric, religious, or lay man or woman—as a humble worshipper seeking that living connection with the action of Christ in his Church (which is what “active participation” should mean), then the liturgy does not need to reflect me, my tastes, those of my community or of “modern man,” whatever that might mean. Rather, it needs to speak of God in ways that our Mother the Church has developed in her tradition. It is the Church’s liturgy, not ours, and we must celebrate it according to her ways and spirit.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jul. 23, 2013 1:24 AM ET USA

    How ironic it is that this truth would be so clearly spoken from a region where the indigenous languages have no Latin roots. Fifty years ago, nine-year-old altar boys were being taught enough Latin to serve Mass, which is more than most Catholic adults can do today. Bring Latin back into the liturgy in a majority of parishes, and we'll be on the road to recovery.

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