Pope Francis: ‘It’s Not Possible to Worship God While Making the Liturgy a Battleground’

‘I emphasize again that the liturgical life, and the study of it, should lead to greater Church unity, not division. When the liturgical life is a bit like a banner of division, there is the stench of the devil in there, the deceiver,’ the Holy Father said April 7.

Pope Francis meets with the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in the Apostolic Palace on May 7.
Pope Francis meets with the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in the Apostolic Palace on May 7. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

Pope Francis said Saturday that the liturgy should not be “a battleground” for “outdated issues.”

“I emphasize again that the liturgical life, and the study of it, should lead to greater Church unity, not division. When the liturgical life is a bit like a banner of division, there is the stench of the devil in there, the deceiver,” Pope Francis said at the Vatican on April 7.

“It’s not possible to worship God while making the liturgy a battleground for issues that are not essential, indeed, outdated issues, and to take sides, starting with the liturgy, with ideologies that divide the Church.”

Speaking at an audience with the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in the apostolic palace, the Pope said that he believes that “every reform creates resistance.”

Pope Francis recalled reforms made when he was a child by Pope Pius XII, particularly when Pius XII reduced the fasting requirement before receiving Holy Communion and reintroduced the Easter vigil.

“All of these things scandalized closed-minded people. It happens also today,” he said.

“Indeed, such closed-minded people use liturgical frameworks to defend their views. Using the liturgy: This is the drama we are experiencing in ecclesial groups that are distancing themselves from the Church, questioning the Council, the authority of the bishops ... in order to preserve tradition. And the liturgy is used for that.”

Pope Francis spoke to the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, an institute in Rome whose school of liturgy has had increasing influence in liturgical norms coming from the Vatican.

The secretary and undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship were both formed by the institute, which was established in 1961 by Pope St. John XXIII as part of the Pontificio Ateneo Sant'Anselmo.

Andrea Grillo, one of the most prominent theology professors at the Sant'Anselmo, has been a vigorous defender of Traditionis Custodes, the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in 2021 that restricted Masses celebrated in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

In the Pope’s remarks, Francis further warned of “the temptation of liturgical formalism,” which he said can be seen today “in those movements that try to go back a little and deny the Second Vatican Council itself.”

Pope Francis delivered his speech from a wheelchair. The 85-year-old Pope has been making his public appearances in a wheelchair since May 5 due to a torn ligament in his right knee.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

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