LA STAMPA

Pope Benedict To Clamp Down On ‘Creative’ Liturgy

An end to hand-clapping masses and showman priests in papal document reportedly aimed at cracking down on abuses of traditional Catholic ceremonies.

Pope Benedict XVI (Rohan Chennal)
Pope Benedict XVI (Rohan Chennal)
Giacomo Galeazzi

ROME - Enough ‘do-it-yourself" Eucharistic prayers, lay people preaching sermons, gospel-style songs of worship, rainbow peace flags adorning the altar. Away with informal baptism or communion services where the new arrivals receive the rites seated around a table, or in the mold of a "World Cup mass' in Amsterdam last year where a priest fielded goals his parishioners kicked up the church aisle.

Pope Benedict XVI is due to sign a motu proprio, a document produced at his own initiative, which heralds a crackdown on what he sees as liturgical abuses. This document will also change the way in which the Church handles issues related to matrimonial issues such as the 500 cases each year of marriages not consummated sexually though the rite is celebrated in church.

The pontiff wants to set in motion a "new liturgical movement, or rather "reform of the reform", as an antidote to anarchy. For Benedict, the mass is not a show but rather a ceremony which should be celebrated with dignity and decorum. So enough of homilies clashing with the day's Gospel readings, extravagant interpretations of the official liturgy, hand clapping, "creative" showman-priests who reinvent rites on the spot, traditional responsorial psalms being substituted by meditative chants, loud, modern music and the arbitrary use of vestments, sacred vases and inappropriate or ridiculous furnishings.

Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, head of the Vatican's Congregation of Divine Worship, which handles affairs related to liturgical practice, has been charged with enforcing "liturgy discipline" and clamping down on improvisation, superficiality, carelessness, and permissiveness in the sacraments.

One recent practice that has triggered a debate within the Church is that of replacing the Eucharistic host with an actual piece of bread and passing around the chalice during the sacrament of Holy Communion, in a literal reenactment of Jesus Christ's Last Supper with the apostles.

In the 2005 Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Anthony Sablam Apuron, president of the Bishops Conference of the Pacific, asked permission to expand the practice of taking Communion while seated. "What sort of a banquet does one go to which requires you to stand rather than sit?" he said at the time.

Polish Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski thinks "the bread should look like food," and "the chalice should be extended to be drunk from." In the Colombo Archdiocese in Sri Lanka, groups of believers practice rites outside those traditionally mandated by the liturgy, including the singing of gospel songs to express their beliefs.

Last summer ahead of the World Cup soccer final between the Netherlands and Spain, Father Paul Vlaar celebrated an ‘Orange Mass' in his church just outside of Amsterdam. His goal was to pray to God for a Netherlands victory. Everything in the church was orange -- the Dutch national color -- including a makeshift goalpost in front of the altar. Before Communion, church parishioners kicked penalties through the goal post, with the priest acting as a goalkeeper. In the event of Holland's victory, the priest had promised to share the traditional Dutch pastry tompoezen, also orange. But, alas, Holland lost to Spain.

But in the same parish there are other, even more significant violations of Vatican rules: lay people are invited to preach sermons and gay weddings are blessed by the priest.

Read the original article in Italian

photo - Pope Benedict XVI (Rohan Chennal)

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