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Pope Francis invokes ‘magisterial authority’ to call Vatican II Mass ‘irreversible’

It remains unclear what precise 'irreversible' liturgical reform Pope Francis is alluding to.
Fri Aug 25, 2017 - 5:00 pm EST
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ROME, August 25, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- Pope Francis invoked “magisterial authority” this week to declare that Vatican II liturgical reforms are “irreversible.” 

Speaking to participants at the 68th Italian National Liturgical Week in Rome, Francis said that after the “long journey” of Vatican II’s liturgical reforms beginning five decades ago, “we can state with confidence and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”

Among liturgists, there is a discussion as to what exactly the Pope is meaning by his comments. The remarks, however, are very similar to those he made in 2015 while celebrating a Mass commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first non-Latin Mass. His sentiment against the Traditional Latin Mass, moreover, has become well known since his derision of youth who prefer the old Mass.

Speaking of having the mass in the vernacular (local language) he said in 2015, “It was, in fact, a courageous gesture of the Church to draw close to the People of God, so that they could understand well what she does, and this is important for us, to follow the Mass in this way. And we cannot go back; we must always go forward, always forward and whoever goes back is mistaken.”

Similarly, in a 2014 interview, the Pope said Vatican II's major liturgical changes "should carry on as they are."  "To speak of the 'reform of the reform' is a mistake," he said.

It remains unclear what precise “irreversible” liturgical reform Pope Francis is alluding to. 

Prior to Cardinal Bergoglio becoming Pope, video footage was captured of him in Argentina celebrating liturgies that contain innovations such as giant puppets in one, and a tango dance in the sanctuary after the liturgy’s conclusion in another. Despite these Masses which he celebrated prior to his pontificate, it is unclear to what extent Pope Francis approves of such innovations. 

The Pope said in his statement to liturgists Thursday how the reform called for by the Council Fathers in the 1963 Vatican II document on the Liturgy titled Sacrosanctum Concilium has yet to be fully realized. 

“And today there is still work to be done in this direction, in particular by rediscovering the reasons for the decisions made with the liturgical reform, overcoming unfounded and superficial interpretations, partial receptions and practices that disfigure it,” he said. 

The Pope said that the way forward to “rediscovering” of the Sacred Liturgy according to the intention of the Council Fathers is not by “rethinking the reform by reviewing/revising its choices, but of knowing better the reasons behind it — also through historical documentation — and of internalizing its guiding principles and observing the discipline that governs it.”

“After this magisterium, after this long journey, we can state with confidence and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.” he said. 

Pope Francis’ pronouncement this week comes on the heels of Vatican rumors last month that he intends to end Pope Benedict XVI’s universal permission for priests to say the Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. 

The Pope has a history of negativity towards the Traditional Latin Mass. He has criticized the "rigidity" of young people who are attached to the Traditional Latin Mass. 

"I always try to understand what's behind people who are too young to have experienced the pre-conciliar liturgy and yet still they want it," the pontiff said in November 2016. "Sometimes I found myself confronted with a very strict person, with an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else.”

The Pope’s pronouncement of the reform being irreversible appears to be at odds with statements by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who said earlier this year that Pope Emeritus Benedict’s allowing the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass showed a path forward to rediscovering authentic liturgy.

“Now, it is enough to pick up [Vatican II's] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy again and to read it honestly, without betraying its meaning, to see that the true purpose of the Second Vatican Council was not to start a reform that could become the occasion for a break with Tradition, but quite the contrary, to rediscover and to confirm Tradition in its deepest meaning,” Sarah said in March.

“It must be reaffirmed that Vatican Council II never asked to make tabula rasa (blank slate) of the past and therefore to abandon the Missal said to be of Saint Pius V,” he added. 

Sarah said at that time that the liturgy called for by Vatican II has yet to be realized and many places in the world. 

Following the lead provided by Pope Benedict in his 2007 Summorum Pontificum, Sarah said he would like to see the relaunch of a “liturgical movement.” Not one that is based on what he called the “ravings of some theologians who long for ‘novelties,’ but one based on a disposition towards discovering God in silence, adoration, and through a proper liturgical formation based on the teachings of the Church.

Immediately after suggesting that priests offer Mass ad orientem (facing the tabernacle with the people), and communion be received kneeling and on the tongue, Cardinal Sarah was publicly censured by the Vatican at the direction of Pope Francis.


  catholic, magisterial teaching, magisterium, pope francis, traditional latin mass, traditional mass, vatican ii

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