Rorate Caeli

Ratzinger in Bamberg - 40 years

Pope Benedict will visit his native Bavaria in early September -- so perhaps it is an appropriate time to remember some of his words to Catholics assembled in Bavaria some 40 years ago.

Since 1848, the Katholikentag has been the main periodical assembly of lay Catholics in Germany, under the guidance of the hierarchy. Its original intent was to establish a sort of "cultural solidarity" among German Catholics. After the last Council, it became a hotbed of dissent, epitomized by the scandalous Katholikentag of Essen, in 1968.

The previous edition of the event had taken place in the city of the great Saint Otto, Bamberg, in July 1966. There, amidst the growing turbulence of the post-Conciliar age, with a Traditional liturgy which remained in the books but which was being destroyed in practice -- with no little help from the unmanageable changes proposed or imposed by the new liturgical bureaucracy in Rome, including the almost limitless experimentation allowed by the instruction Inter Œcumenici -- a man raised his voice to question the liturgical revolution.

Naturally, he was not the only one to question the novelties, but he was the one who would become Pope. Father Ratzinger had some interesting things to say at the dawn of the liturgical disaster, three years before the Mass of Pope Paul VI:

Among theologians, there is a certain archaism with the wish to restore the classical form of the Roman liturgy as it was before the additions of the Carolingian age and of the Middle Ages. One does not ask oneself, "What should the liturgy be like?"; but, rather, "What was it like once?"

While the past gives us an indispensable aid to solve the problems of our age, it is not the criterion on which one should found the reform purely and simply.

Knowing how Gregory the Great proceeded [to do] is good, but it does not force one to do the same. With such archaisms, the road towards legitimacy [in liturgical reform] has often been destroyed.

Must every Mass be truly celebrated turned towards the people? Is it that important to be able to see the face of the priest? Isn't it often good to think of him as a Christian with the others and that, consequently, he has all reasons to turn with them towards God and by this act say Our Father with them?

The tabernacle is detached from the High Altar, and there may be good reasons for that. But one should feel uncomfortable by seeing its place taken by the chair of the celebrant, expressing thus in the liturgy a clericalism which is much worse than that of before.