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Liturgical reform is ‘irreversible,’ Pope proclaims

August 24, 2017

Pope Francis told an Italian audience on August 24 that “we can assert with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”

Speaking at Italy’s National Liturgical Week, the Pope delivered a major address on the liturgy, insisting that the reforms prompted by Vatican II cannot be undone. He said that the challenge for the Church lies not in “rethinking the reforms by reviewing choices, but in knowing better the underlying reasons” for the liturgical changes.

The reforms mandated by the Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium were not a sudden development, the Pope said; they were the product of years of preparation. He said that the movement toward liturgical reform began with Pope Pius X and continued with Pope Pius XII. The reforms suggested by the Council, he said, “respond to real needs and to the concrete hopes of a renewal.”

Citing the words of Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis said that proper implementation of the Vatican II changes requires not merely changing rubrics but changing minds, helping the faithful better to understand active participation. He said that implementation “requires time, faithful reception, practical obedience, wise implementation.”

Although he did not speak in detail about liturgical guidelines, the Pope said that the reformed liturgy must have three characteristics:

  • It is a living liturgy, with Christ at its center;
  • It is an action of the people, popular rather than clerical; and
  • It is “a bearer of life,” transforming the faithful, rather than a set of ideas.

Before closing his address, Pope Francis acknowledged that although the Roman liturgy is most common in the Church, it is not the only Catholic ritual. “The harmony of the ritual traditions, of the East and of the West,” enriches the Church’s celebration, he said.


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  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 25, 2017 5:01 PM ET USA

    Liturgical reform has to include due reverence and beauty in church architecture, liturgical vestments, proper attire of the participants, return to reverend, meaningful and prayerful music and maintaining of sacred silence before and after the liturgy. Doing the opposite is not a reform.

  • Posted by: mary_conces3421 - Aug. 25, 2017 9:17 AM ET USA

    I wonder if the Holy Father thinks that big screens, rock rhythms, & an uproarious atmosphere are what the reforming popes & Vatican Council I had in mind.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Aug. 25, 2017 3:26 AM ET USA

    "Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples."

  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Aug. 25, 2017 12:57 AM ET USA

    Someone should explain to his stubbornness, that only the mind of God is irreversible, which means the peoples of the past deserve respect and veneration. Their liturgies are our liturgies too. Is this too much to comprehend Pope Francis?

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Aug. 24, 2017 8:53 PM ET USA

    With Pope Francis you can never be sure what he really means. Since he only mentions the Liturgy of Vatican II and the Liturgy of the East, Where does that leave the pre-Vatican II Latin Liturgy?

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Aug. 24, 2017 6:51 PM ET USA

    As a Catholic who loves the Extraordinary Form, the Latin language, and Gregorian Chant, I just have to "share" that I'm not feeling that Pope Francis is "coming out to the margins" to "accompany me where I am" on my "faith journey", but instead invoking "outmoded forms of hierarchical authority" in a "spirit of hyper-clericalism and non-inclusion."

  • Posted by: filioque - Aug. 24, 2017 6:02 PM ET USA

    Well, let's see how long he thinks the Roman Ritual according to the Missal of 1962 enriches the Church's celebration.

  • Posted by: JimKcda - Aug. 24, 2017 5:41 PM ET USA

    Perhaps he ought to be re-examining the actual meaning of Pope Paul VI and VII regarding the Liturgy instead of Humani Vitae.