Rorate Caeli

Infusing the spirit of the Novus Ordo into Eastern Catholicism:
Notes on Piero Marini's new appointment, the legacy of the 2010 Synod of Bishops, and the modernizing Chaldean Catholic liturgical reform of 2014

Patriarch Louis Raphael celebrating Mass at the Chaldean church of the Queen of the Holy Rosary in Baghdad, 2014. (Source)

On Piero Marini and the "Special Commission on the Liturgy" for the Eastern Catholics

September 1 saw, in addition to the Pope's letter on the Jubilee of Mercy with its historic gestures to the SSPX and on abortion, the announcement that he had also renewed the membership of the Special Commission on the Liturgy of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. (Some news sites reported this as a "reconstitution" of the Commission.) As President of this Special Commission he appointed Archbishop Piero Marini who will also remain as President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses (a post he has held since 2007). Marini is of course better known as the former Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations and disciple of Abp. Annibale Bugnini, having been at one point the latter's personal secretary. 

Marini is already 73 (turning 74 next January) and will doubtless not last very long in his positions, even if his stay is extended into his late 70's. Despite the name of the Commission it is not a "mini-Congregation for Divine Worship" for the Eastern Catholic Churches, whose Synods and Primates have more autonomy when it comes to liturgical and disciplinary matters than the bishops and Bishops' Conferences of the Latin Rite. Its role according to the Vatican website is "to deal with the matters reserved by the Code of Canons for the Oriental Churches to the Holy See concerning the liturgy of the oriental Catholic Churches". According to the Code of Canons for the Oriental Churches (Canon 657) these largely pertain to the review and / or approval of liturgical texts (including translations for liturgical use) before these could come into force in the Eastern Catholic Churches, including those led by Patriarchs. Due to the Special Commission's limited powers it is highly improbable that Abp. Marini will be able to push through a major liturgical reform among the Eastern Churches. However, the Special Commission can influence liturgical texts -- and it is to this aspect that we now turn.

The Legacy of the Synod of Bishops of 2010

The overall reform of the rites and ceremonies Eastern Churches is one thing; the possible "modernization" of some texts of the Eastern Rites is another. Should the powers-that-be wish for such modernizations they can point to the express will of the Synod of Bishops in 2010 (on the Church in the Middle East), and even to the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI "Ecclesia in Medio Oriente". Long-time readers of Rorate might recall that back in 2010 this blog posted two articles on the desire for liturgical modernization expressed by some Eastern Catholic bishops themselves and included in the final Propositions of that Synod:

The 2010 Synod's 39th Proposition called for the adaptation of the Eastern Rites to contemporary thought and language:

The biblical and theological wealth of the Eastern liturgies is at the spiritual service of the universal Church. Nonetheless, it would be useful and important to renew the liturgical texts and celebrations, where necessary, so as to answer better the needs and expectations of the faithful. This renewal must be based on an ever deeper knowledge of tradition and be adapted to contemporary language and categories.

In September 2012 (only three years ago) Pope Benedict XVI issued his Apostolic Exhortation based upon the discussions of the Synod of 2010, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente. This document (in no. 75) echoes the Synod of 2010's Proposition 39 by calling for a "renewal of liturgical texts and celebrations" among Eastern Catholics that would be partly based on "the new insights of Christian theology and anthropology" even as it asks that the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox be consulted on any project of liturgical renewal: 

A renewal of liturgical texts and celebrations, where necessary, could enable the faithful to draw more deeply from the liturgical tradition and its biblical, patristic, theological and spiritual riches[74] through their experience of the Mystery to which these give access. Such a renewal must of course be undertaken, to the extent possible, in cooperation with those Churches which are not in full communion, yet are also heirs to the same liturgical traditions. The desired liturgical renewal must be based on the word of God, on the proper tradition of each Church, and upon the new insights of Christian theology and anthropology. It will bear fruit if Christians become convinced that the sacramental life introduces them deeply into the new life in Christ (cf. Rom 6:1-6; 2 Cor 5:17) which is the source of communion and witness.

When Ecclesia in Medio Oriente was published this portion of the text scarcely produced any reactions. Benedict XVI's text was much more restrained compared to the original Propositions of the Synod Fathers in 2010 let alone what they actually said during the Synodal discussions. As already noted the desire to reform the Eastern Catholic liturgies is strongest among Eastern Catholics themselves. We can see this not just in the output of the 2010 Synod but in recent events in the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Chaldean Catholic Liturgical Reform - 2014

Traditional-style Chaldean Catholic liturgy and sanctuary (source)

There was a major overhaul of the Chaldean Missal approved by Chaldean hierarchy and the Holy See in 2006. This reform made the text of the Mass "clearer and more compact" (in other words, shorter and with fewer repetitions) while going to great lengths to substantially preserve the liturgical tradition behind it. However, the reform -- despite being promulgated by the late Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly and approved by the Holy See for implementation in 2007 initially for a 3-year period ad experimentum -- was not widely adopted, except in the St. Peter Eparchy centered in El Cajon, CA. It was this diocese's bishop (Mar Sarhad Jammo) who had spearheaded the 2006 reform. This diocese also adopted the celebration of the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) "ad orientem" and the revival of the Sanctuary Veil. The story of the liturgical chaos in the Chaldean Church and the failed reform, the widespread abbreviation and "novusordoization" of the liturgy, the general adoption of "ad populum" etc. are told (from a pro-2006 reform POV) in the articles Personal Reflections on the 2006 Reform of the Chaldean Mass (which has important documents at the end) and Liturgical Debates in the Chaldean Church

One of the most ardent supporters of modernizing liturgical reform for the Eastern Churches in general during the Synod of 2010 was the Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako, who would go on to be elected in 2013 as Patriarch Louis Raphael of his Church. Upon his enthronement he outlined liturgical reform as one of his priorities, stating that "We need to update our liturgy so that it speaks to man today, so that it gives meaning and much hope." This despite the fact that there was already a reform in 2006. During the Synod he had asked for "Liturgical reformation based upon sacred scripture, but also the patristics and pastoral demands of today. Otherwise our faithful will go looking for other churches as has already happened in some cases." Tellingly, one of his first actions was to disparage and abandon the clerical headgear native to his Church (the "shash").

Amidst the chaos and suffering that had overtaken the Chaldeans in Iraq and Syria at the hands of Islamists in 2014, a second reform of the Chaldean Mass -- "Mass" is how the Chaldeans themselves now call it in English -- was accomplished with surprising speed. The reformed Mass was  published by Patriarch Louis Raphael in 2014 with the approval of Leonardo Cardinal Sandri of the Congregation of the Eastern Catholic Churches. The 2014 reform is the second to be approved in eight years and is now being adopted by the rest of the Chaldean Church, except the St. Peter Eparchy that is sticking to the 2006 reform and has appealed to the Holy See to clarify the matter.

Alarmed Chaldean Catholic clerics of this eparchy have written critiques of the newest reform -- examples are The 2006 Reform of the Chaldean Mass and the 2014 Missal of Patriarch Sako. The Growing Child or the Mutilated Infant? by Fr. Andrew Younan and Keeping the Liturgy Chaldean by Fr. Ankidu Sipo.

In addition to various and apparently substantial changes to the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass, Fr. Younan claims that the new Missal has the following modernizations:

- The (implied, as well as applied) non-Eastern orientation of the Mass. The priest is expected to “face the people,” going against Eastern theology, liturgy, history, and the Prescriptions of the Catholic Church applying to Eastern Churches;
– the complete lack of reference to the Sanctuary Veil, despite all its beautiful, Scriptural meaning; 

Both Younan and Sipo mention that Patriarch Louis Raphael's reform abolishes the use of the Crucifix and insists on a plain Cross in its place, a "reform" based on antiquarian grounds even though some of the other reforms are decidedly modern in orientation.

We are well aware that there is a long-standing feud between this Diocese and the Patriarch that has cast a shadow over into this current liturgical dispute. There are some defenses of Patriarch Louis Raphael's liturgical reforms (such as this) that contradict some of the details in Younan's critique of the text of the reformed liturgy. However, Younan's claims that the new Missal effectively turns "ad populum" into a norm and that it ignores the existence of the Sanctuary Veil, are very serious, and given their publication on an official Chaldean Church venue and the absence (so far) of any denials or rebuttals, are to be taken seriously. (There are also many videos on Youtube that clearly show the Chaldean Mass with the Anaphora being celebrated ad populum in sanctuaries devoid of veils including this one by the Patriarch last year. But see our paragraph below.)

With the notable exception of the Syro-Malankars, the Eastern Catholic Churches of the Syriac tradition (Maronites, Chaldeans, Syriac Catholics, Syro-Malabars) have been undergoing a creeping "novusordoism" that has seen the widespread adoption of ad populum (easily verified on the Internet), the abandonment of the sanctuary curtain or veil common to the Syriac and Armenian traditions, and a tendency to abbreviate and modernize the liturgy. In an article written by a Chaldean in defense of the celebration of Mass ad orientem (Facing the Cross), the author laments that the celebration of Mass ad populum has spread to nearly all Chaldean Catholic dioceses, but he also points out that this is in contravention of Chaldean liturgical law and tradition. Unfortunately, with the latest liturgical reform by their own Patriarch, ad populum and the loss of the Sanctuary veil have now been transformed from being merely widespread abuses to "normalized" practices for the Chaldeans. We have seen similar maneuvers used repeatedly in the Latin Rite and we have no illusions about the further damage this will eventually inflict upon the spirit of an already devastated people.