Key cardinals, bishops and other noted experts in the liturgy from around the world will gather in Rome June 25-28 to discuss the sacred liturgy and its correct celebration in the life and mission of the Church.
Called Sacra Liturgia 2013 and inspired by the liturgical teaching of Benedict XVI, the conference is the idea of Bishop Dominique Rey of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France.
On a visit to Rome April 23, the bishop discussed with the Register the conference’s main aims and how it could help heal post-conciliar liturgical disputes, as well as the liturgical significance of Pope Francis’ early-morning Masses.
What are the main aims of this conference? What would you most like it to achieve?
The goal of this conference is to show the link between the New Evangelization and the liturgy — how the liturgy can help the Church to enter more into the New Evangelization — because the central thing in the New Evangelization is to meet Jesus Christ, and the central place where we meet Jesus Christ is in the liturgy. The [Church’s] Tradition says that the liturgy is the source and purpose of the mission of the Church.
Is this conference aimed at helping to heal the so-called liturgy wars, divisions between those who want more modern liturgies and those who favor traditional forms of worship?
Yes, communion inside the Church could be given by the acceptance of a true form of rites — the extraordinary and ordinary form. The principal teaching of Pope Benedict was to say that true expression is possible through the celebration of the extraordinary rite and the ordinary form of the rite. This congress will help be an expression of this source of mission and communion.
How did the idea for this conference come about?
We live in a secularized society, and we need the expression of the centrality of God. The expression of the centrality of God is given by the liturgy. We live in a superficial world, so, through the liturgy, we discover the presence of God in the Eucharist; it enters in our body and soul. A sense of intimacy, interiority, is given by the liturgy. And in the liturgy we celebrate the fact that the bread becomes the body of Christ; there is a transformation, and so, when I receive the Eucharist, it can transform me, too.
The transformation of the Word begins in the liturgy, in the celebration of the Eucharist, because it’s an expression of the beginning of the transformation of the Word. For all these reasons, we have to restore a real and perfect sense of the liturgy given by the traditional magisterium of the Church, given by Vatican II.
Some argue that Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, brought problematic changes to worship. Others, however, believe it began before that time. What is your view, and does this have some impact on the conference?
We received Sacrosanctum Concilium as a fruit of the Council, and it belongs to the Tradition of the Church, her teaching about the sense of liturgy, the sacramentality of the Church. But the way this document was received was problematic in some places. We have seen some transformations and adaptations, instrumentalization and subjectivization of this document. This was a source of many difficulties, and so we have to restore the exact interpretation of this document and to advance the mission.
This is one of the aims of the conference?
Yes, to clarify the teaching and go again to the source of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and the liturgy.
What do you see as Pope Francis' approach to the ordinary form and extraordinary form of the Mass?
I think the Pope, in his ministry as Successor of Peter, wants to follow the teaching of his predecessors. I don’t think any change is meant. Each day, he celebrates an early-morning Mass for Vatican workers and, by doing so, is emphatically showing that the liturgy is the source of his day; that the liturgy is the first service we can give to people, to the world, and it’s the charity of the Church that is expressed by the liturgy. The celebrating of Mass is a teaching; it is a message. There’s an insistence there; it is the same message, but his insistence to celebrate Mass for many people in this way is a teaching.
You have an impressive lineup of speakers for the conference. Do you expect to see some new initiatives to help attract people to the liturgy?
For the different speakers, what is important for me is that they help us discover new lights, to shed new light, so we can discover things we have forgotten. There won’t be anything new, as such. The liturgy is a world, a continent, but parts of this continent have been forgotten or placed in some shadows, so we have to rediscover these.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.