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Recent discussion of the music used in the closing ceremonies of the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Dublin has raised the blood pressure of more than a few.  Part of my current work as Communications Officer means that I have to read through a number of weekly publications, and certainly there have been some fairly robust responses to criticisms voiced by Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, the Executive Director of ICEL, not least in The Tablet and also on the blog, Pray Tell.

Whenever we speak of liturgical ‘preference’ we naturally find ourselves falling into a polemic about cultural context, or tradition, or appropriateness. The beauty of the Sacred Liturgy is that whilst there is some room for pastoral decisions to be made, essentially the structure and the content of the celebration is a ‘given’; it cannot be altered or changed and, if it is, it ceases to be the authentic prayer of the Church.

Not only does this manipulation of the Sacred Rites lead to a human-focussed celebration, but it also adds an unhealthy clericalism or pseudo-clericalism – whether it is the priest or a committee that has decided on the alteration – removing, as it does, the right of the plebs sancta Dei to participate in the liturgy as the Church intends. Ironically – given the language often employed in these discussions – it is a strict adherence to the texts that brings about a liberation borne of submission to the will of the Church, expressed gently but firmly by the magisterium.

Pope Benedict’s own interjection at the IEC is helpful in this regard, and Mgr Wadsworth draws our attention to it in his paper, which is reproduced below. In this, the Holy Father makes clear that whilst ‘a great deal has been achieved’ by the reforms of the second Vatican Council – ‘the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known’ – there are, he goes on to say, ‘many misunderstandings and irregularities’ which still pervade the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, and which show that ‘much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal’.

It seems that, in this, the Holy Father is not seeking to undermine the reforms of the second Vatican Council – far from it! – but rather suggesting that the reforms did not go far enough, at least in their subsequent interpretation and implementation.

I hope to make some further remarks about Mgr Wadsworth’s comments on the closing ceremony of the IEC particularly, but for now will leave readers with his impressive and interesting paper. It bears reading, and whilst I imagine that most readers will find themselves nodding and agreeing with much (if not all) of what is said, this is even more of a reason to be well-versed in the reasoning he puts forward, and sentiments expressed by him and others.