Benedict XVI (before and after his election as Pope) has expressed strong views on long-standing problems afflicting the Church's liturgy worldwide. An opportunity for him to assert his authority in this regard will occur at the forthcoming Synod of Bishops, due to meet in Rome from 2- 23 October 2005 on the theme of the Eucharist.
The Instrumentum laboris (or working document) for the Synod was released on 7 July and summarises a large number of submissions from all over the world, following circulation of a Lineamenta document in 2004 to the world's episcopal conferences. The working document will provide the Synod with reference points for wide-ranging discussions.
The document devotes much of its space to widespread problem areas: low Mass attendances in most Western countries; the near-disappearance of confessions; liturgical abuses; a lack of both reverence and a sense of the sacred; a blurred liturgical distinction between priests and lay people; a lack of emphasis on the Mass as a sacrifice; declining belief in the real presence; poor quality church music; poor homilies; and the placement of tabernacles in obscure parts of churches. These are just a few.
The working document states: "The ongoing formation of the clergy needs to rekindle a spirit of communal prayer to strengthen a disposition of humbly adhering to the spirit and letter of liturgical norms."
In other words, many priests - and lay people - require re-educating as to the Church's liturgical directives. While the Holy See has issued a large number of liturgical documents since Vatican II, these have often remained unread or have been ignored.
The forthcoming Synod will present bishops with a window of opportunity to exercise stronger control over the liturgy in their dioceses.
The complete working document is available on the Internet at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (Email - firstname.lastname@example.org)