Liturgy: light at the end of the tunnel

Liturgy: light at the end of the tunnel

Michael Gilchrist

A number of recent separate but related developments in the field of liturgy give cause for hope that the liturgical vision of Vatican II may finally be realised in the not-too-distant future - almost 40 years after the event.

The Vatican Instruction, Liturgiam Authenticam, published earlier this year with the endorsement of Pope John Paul II, sets clear guidelines for the production of sound, tasteful vernacular translations of Mass texts. The positive responses from many of the world's bishops, including most recently, Bishop Manning of Parramatta (see page 4), have been encouraging.

Liturgiam Authenticam needs to be seen in relation to concerns expressed about the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

Cardinal Jorge A. Medina Estévez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in a letter dated 26 October 1999, and addressed to Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway, Scotland, who is the chairman of ICEL, chastised ICEL and declared that the commission "in its present form is not in a position to render to the bishops, to the Holy See, and the English-speaking faithful, an adequate level of service", due to the defective liturgical translations which ICEL had provided for the English-speaking world.

Cardinal Medina consequently issued a directive prohibiting ICEL from composing original English prayer texts; required the Congregation's nihil obstat for the work of the ICEL advisory committee and secretariat staff; and required that future translations "accurately and fully convey the content of the original texts."

The review of Cardinal Ratzinger's recent book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, brings out the Cardinal's key ideas on what constitutes "authentic" liturgical renewal along the lines charted by Vatican II, as distinct from that form of renewal based on the over-ripe imaginations of some liturgists (e.g., see page 7).

Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail -

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