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Online Edition: June-July 2011

Vol. XVII, No. 4

Liturgical Reform - Tradition and Progress:

The Pontifical Liturgical Institute's Fifty Years

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

An International Liturgical Congress observing the 50th anniversary of the 1961 founding of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute [PIL] at the Benedictine Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’ Anselmo in Rome was held May 4-6. The congress, titled “The Pontifical Institute — between Memory and Prophecy”, included an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on May 6.

In his address to the group, the pope pointed out that the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, “was not primarily to change the rites and texts, but rather to renew mentalities and to place at the center of Christian life and ministry the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ”. The liturgy, he said, lives from a healthy tradition integrated with legitimate progress. “With these two terms”, he said, “the Council Fathers wished to deliver their program of reform, in harmony with the liturgical tradition of the past and the future”; though he also noted that the experience of the past decades shows that tradition and progress have often been “awkwardly contrasted”.

Introductory comments were given by the Benedictine Abbot Primate, Notker Wolf, and Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and chancellor of the Pontifical Gregorian University, where the sessions were held on May 5-6.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 77, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels 1977-2010, addressed the group on “Teaching the Liturgy in Service to the Church”; and Spanish Claretian Father Matias Augé, 75, spoke on “The Teaching Method of the Great Masters of the PIL”. (Father Augé, who formerly taught at the PIL and has been a consultant to the Congregation for Divine Worship, has a blog, liturgia-opus-trinitatis.over- blog.it, on which he recently posted a 1998 exchange of letters between himself and then-Cardinal Ratzinger on the use of the pre-conciliar form of Mass.)

Dr. David Holeton, an Anglican clergyman from Canada, who is a former student of Pierre Marie Gy at the Institut Catholique in Paris, and has taught liturgy at Charles University Prague since 1997, was another presenter at the PIL congress. Holeton’s negative comments about the new English translation of the Missal were featured in a Catholic News Service story May 5, in which he is quoted as saying that the Holy See’s instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam, “came as a bombshell” and that other Christians were “both stunned and dismayed” that there was no ecumenical consultation on new Missal translation. Holeton deplored the replacement of common texts in the new Missal, which “is a very raw point at the moment and has created an atmosphere of ecumenical mistrust”, he said. (“New Mass translation is ecumenically harmful, Anglican says”, by Cindy Wooden, CNS: catholicnews.com/ data/stories/cns/1101794.htm).

Holeton’s sharp criticism of the new Missal translation as “unecumenical” is perhaps not surprising, considering his involvement with providing “common texts”. He was chairman of the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT) from 1992-1995 and has been Secretary of the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) since 2001.

The CCT is an ecumenical group formed in the early 1960s under the leadership of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). The ELLC is the successor to the International Consultation on English Texts, formed in 1969, also encouraged by ICEL, with the objective of devising texts for all the ecclesial bodies involved. The group published three editions of “Prayers We Have in Common” (1970, 71, 75) before it disbanded in 1975.

“Common texts” that have been in use in the Catholic Church since 1973 include the introductory dialogue (“and also with you”), Kyrie, Creeds, Gloria, Sanctus (“God of power and might”), and the Sursum Corda (“it is right to give Him thanks and praise”) — all of which are changed in the new Missal translation.

The CCT also produced a Common Lectionary (1983), a Revised Common Lectionary (1992), and other “ecumenical” liturgical texts. (See “Ecumenical Texts in the Missal” AB October 2006 - adoremus. org/1006EcumenicalTexts.html).

American Father Paul Turner presented an address entitled “Pastoral Liturgy” during the last segment of the congress: “Challenge to liturgists of the future”. Father Turner, who has a doctorate in theology from Sant’ Anselmo, is pastor of St. Munchin parish in Cameron, Missouri, and past president of the North American Academy of Liturgy. He is currently facilitator for ICEL, and gives workshops on the new Missal translation. He has written frequently on liturgical topics, including bulletin inserts for “Ministry in Liturgy”. Father Turner’s works are accessible on his web site: paulturner.org.

The PIL Congress program is accessible on the Sant’ Anselmo site: santanselmo.org/archivio/50_PIL/programma.html. The pope’s address (in Italian only) is on the Vatican web site. (The translation that appears here is by Adoremus.)

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