Rorate Caeli

Pope Francis on liturgical reform and Vatican II: no turning back

Avanti! ¡Adelante! Forward! And no going back!

The Pope has once again made his mind on the liturgical reform of the 1960's and Vatican II clear, and not without taking the opportunity to criticize the easiest of targets: the very few who still say the rosary at Mass (by the way, not a problem - cf. Mediator Dei, 181-184). He could not resist doing so at his homily on March 7 at the Ognissanti parish in Rome where he commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first Italian Mass of Paul VI:

The liturgy is not something strange, there, distant, and while it is being celebrated I am thinking of many things, or I pray the Rosary. No, no. There is a correspondence between the liturgical celebration, which I then carry into my life; and on this more progress must be made, there is such a long way yet to go.

After the Mass and just before leaving the parish, the Pope addressed the faithful gathered outside the Church, and touched upon the liturgical reform: 

Thank you so much, thank you so much for your hospitality, for the prayer with me in the Mass; and we thank the Lord for what He has done in the Church in these 50 years of liturgical reform. It was in fact a courageous gesture of the Church to draw close to the People of God, so that they could understand well what she does, and this is important for us, to follow the Mass in this way. And we cannot go back; we must always go forward, always forward and whoever goes back is mistaken. We go forward on this way.

These words were immediately reported by Avvenire -- the daily that is affiliated with the Catholic Church in Italy -- and were soon published on the Vatican website. (See link.) We can be assured that these are truly Francis' words, not just "allegedly" his words, conveyed by "garbled and unreliable" sources. 

And there's more! On March 9 the Holy See released the text of a letter to Cardinal Mario Poli, Grand Chancellor of the Catholic University of Argentina, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its Theology Faculty. Signed on March 3, the letter reveals the Pope's vision for the continued development of theology in the name of the "renewal" stemming from the Second Vatican Council. 

The following translation is that of Vatican Radio, emphases are Rorate's:

Dear brother,
The celebration of 100 years of the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University is an important moment for the Church in Argentina. The anniversary coincides with that of fifty years from the closing of the Second Vatican Council, which was an update, a re-reading of the Gospel in the perspective of contemporary culture. It produced an irreversible movement of renewal that comes from the Gospel. And now, we must go forward.

How, then, do we go forward? Teaching and studying theology means living on a frontier, one in which the Gospel meets the needs of the people which should be proclaimed in an understandable and meaningful way. We must guard against a theology that is exhausted in academic dispute or watching humanity from a glass castle. You learn to live: theology and holiness are inseparable.

The theology that developed is therefore rooted and based on Revelation, on tradition, but also accompanies the cultural and social processes, in particular the difficult transitions.

At this time theology must also take responsibility for conflicts: not only those that we experience within the Church, but also those that concern the whole world and those which you live on the streets of Latin America. Do not settle for a theology desktop. Your place for reflection are the boundaries. And do not fall into the temptation to paint, to perfume, to adjust them a bit and tame them. Even good theologians, as good shepherds, smell of the people and of the road and, with their reflection, pour oil and wine on the wounds of men.

Theology is an expression of a Church which is a "field hospital", which lives its mission of salvation and healing in the world. Mercy is not just a pastoral attitude but it is the very substance of the Gospel of Jesus. I encourage you to study how the various disciplines - the dogmatic, morality, spirituality, law and so on - may reflect the centrality of mercy.

Without mercy our theology, our right, our pastoral care runs the risk of collapsing into bureaucratic pettiness or ideology, which of itself wants to tame the mystery. Understanding theology is to understand God, who is Love.

Who then is the student of theology that the UCA is called to form? Certainly not a theologian "museum" that accumulates data and information on Revelation without really knowing what to do with it. Nor a passive onlooker (balconero) on history. The theologian formed at U.C.A. is a person able to build humanity around him, to transmit the divine Christian truth in a truly human dimension, and not an intellectual without talent, an ethicist without kindness or a sacred bureaucrat.

I ask the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom and Mother of Divine Grace, to accompany us in the celebration of this centenary. I ask you to greet the students, staff, professors and authorities of the Faculty, who do not forget to pray for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin protect you.
From the Vatican, March 3, 2015