Buoyed by the cheers of pilgrims and serenaded by Polish choirs, a frail Pope John Paul II kicked off 25th-anniversary celebrations with a reflection on prayer and divine grace. Addressing some 20,000 people in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 15, the pope spoke about the value of evening prayer, or vespers, from the chuch’s Liturgy of the Hours, for modern Catholics. Then he greeted a seemingly endless line of cardinals, bishops, dignitaries and the sick.
The general audience was the first official event of a weeklong calendar of ceremonies and liturgies to mark the anniversary of the pope’s election on Oct. 16, 1978. For the occasion, the Vatican’s Web site (www.vatican.va) invited people around the world to send greetings to the pope at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 83-year-old pontiff rode through a crowded St. Peter’s Square seated on a throne in an open jeep, looking alert and waving to the thousands of cheering well-wishers. He spoke in a relatively strong voice, although at times he seemed short of breath. The pope’s talk recommended the liturgy of evening prayer as a way to draw close to God through a sequence of psalms, canticles, readings and intercessions, culminating in the Lord’s Prayer, the perfect expression of the church’s praise of God.
The pope, seated on a platform in the sunny square, abbreviated some of his remarks, but still managed to express greetings in several languages. I want to acknowledge the wishes and prayers that have been offered for me on [the] occasion of my 25th anniversary of my pontificate, he said at the end of the audience. The pope said he wanted to thank God for all the good he has caused to spring from the hearts of individuals, the church and the world throughout the 25 years of his ministry.
As usual, the most numerous group of people allowed to kiss the pope’s ring was made up of sick people, including dozens who were taken up to the seated pontiff in wheelchairs. Then the pope posed patiently for group photos with pilgrims for almost an hour.Ratzinger Letter Read at Gathering of Episcopalians
A letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was read at a gathering of Episcopalians who are seeking to overturn their church’s approval of an openly homosexual bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions. The letter from Cardinal Ratzinger received a standing ovation when it was read to the more than 2,600 participants in the American Anglican Council’s gathering in Dallas on Oct. 8. Meeting organizers said it was sent on behalf of Pope John Paul II, but Catholic sources denied this, saying it was a personal letter sent by the cardinal in response to a letter from an Episcopal bishop who was going to attend the meeting. The Vatican has traditionally not taken sides in internal disputes in other Christian churches.
The significance of your meeting is sensed far beyond [Dallas], and even in this city [Rome] from which St. Augustine of Canterbury was sent to confirm and strengthen the preaching of Christ’s Gospel in England, said the letter, as released by the American Anglican Council.
At the close of the meeting, on Oct. 9, participants approved a call to action condemning the general convention of the Episcopal Church in early August for its confirmation of a noncelibate homosexual to be a bishop of the church, and its acceptance of same-sex blessings as part of our common life.Pope’s Chief Liturgist Defends Use of Dance in Papal Masses
Pope John Paul II’s chief liturgist, Archbishop Piero Marini, has defended the use of dance in papal Masses abroad and at the Vatican. Archbishop Marini said liturgical celebrations presided over by the pope have a universal character that should accommodate the legitimate cultural elements of Catholic communities around the world. He made the comments in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Oct. 15.
Some church officials have criticized Archbishop Marini, because they think the papal liturgies in recent years have been outlandish. Reflecting strong sentiment in some Vatican quarters, a draft version of a recent Vatican document on liturgical norms recommended no dance inside churcheseven outside celebration of the Mass. In contrast, a beatification Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 5 featured African dance at the offertory and Indian dance at the consecration.
Archbishop Marini, who has designed papal liturgies for 17 years, said the criticism was off the mark. To introduce dance at a parish Mass in Italy would be pointless. But the celebration [on Oct. 5] was a missionary celebration for the beatification of three people who evangelized Africa and Asia, Archbishop Marini pointed out.Top Vatican Liturgy Official Criticizes Liturgical Abuses
The Vatican’s chief liturgy official sharply criticized unauthorized liturgical innovations in a speech on Oct. 8 in San Antonio, Tex. Some people seem to think that inculturation in the liturgy encourages free and uncontrolled creativity, said Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The truth is that genuine inculturation has nothing to do with the product of the over-fertile imagination of an enthusiastic priest who concocts something on Saturday night and inflicts it on the innocent Sunday morning congregation now being used as a guinea pig, he said.
In his address, given during the national meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions on Oct. 7-11, Cardinal Arinze praised several key elements of liturgical renewal in the decades following the council but questioned or criticized some changes made in the name of renewal, including some renovations of older churches and designs of new churches.
If a church is built and the seats are arranged as in an amphitheater or as in a banquet, the undeclared emphasis may be horizontal attention to one another, rather than vertical attention to God.... We come to Mass primarily to adore God, not to affirm one another, although this is not excluded, he said.
Some people think that liturgical renewal means the removal of kneelers from church pews, the knocking down of altar rails or the positioning of the altar in the middle of the sitting area of the people, he added. The church has never said any such thing. Nor does liturgical restoration mean iconoclasm or the removal of all statues and sacred images. These should be displayed, albeit with good judgment.
And the altar of the Blessed Sacrament should be outstanding for its beauty and honored prominence. Otherwise in some so-called restored churches one could rightly lament, They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.’
Among positive results of liturgical renewal since the council, Cardinal Arinze highlighted five areas:
The place given to the Bible in the liturgy, which enables people to become more familiar with Scripture and to enter more deeply into the great mystery of God’s transforming love which the Scripture proclaims.
The sustained effort to translate the various liturgical texts into the current language of the people and also to face the challenges of adapting liturgical celebration to the culture of each people.
The increased participation of the faithful in all aspects of the liturgical celebration.
The many happy developments in the growth of ministries exercised by lay people.
The radiant vitality of so many Christian communities, a vitality drawn from the wellspring of the liturgy.
He said the council’s directives on inculturation of the liturgy will engage the church for generations, especially in the countries of recent evangelization. He warned, however, that true and lasting inculturation demands long study, discussions among experts in interdisciplinary platforms, examination and decision by bishops, recognitio [approval or confirmation] by the Apostolic See and prudent presentation to the people of God.Scottish Cardinal-Designate Offers Public Profession of Faith
Before leaving for Rome to be inducted into the College of Cardinals, Scotland’s Cardinal-designate Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh made a public profession of faith and affirmed his adherence to church teaching on celibacy, homosexuality and birth control. The profession came about a week after the cardinal-designate had made remarks to reporters indicating he was open to discussion and change on church disciplines regarding celibacy for Latin-rite priests, homosexuality and the use of contraceptives.
A spokesman for the Scottish bishops’ conference said the cardinal-designate’s position had been misrepresented. He said Cardinal-designate O’Brien was not calling for a change in any church teaching, but was emphasizing that if the topics were to be debated, he would participate and would encourage others to do so as well. The spokesman dismissed rumors that making the profession of faith was a condition imposed on Cardinal-designate O’Brien before he could receive his red hat.
I firmly hold and maintain all and everything taught by the Holy Catholic Church concerning faith and morals, the cardinal-designate said in the profession. I accept and intend to defend the law on ecclesiastical celibacy as it is proposed by the magisterium of the Catholic Church; I accept and promise to defend the ecclesiastical teaching about the immorality of the homosexual act; I accept and promise to promulgate always and everywhere what the church’s magisterium teaches on contraception.