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Online Edition: March 2008, Vol. XIV, No. 1

News & Views

Baptisms in Sistine Chapel | CDF on Baptism | Prayer for the Jews

Baptisms in Sistine Chapel

Pope Benedict XVI baptized thirteen infants at Mass in the Sistine Chapel on January 13, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. The babies are the children of Vatican employees.

Apparently alluding to the fresco, in his homily the Holy Father explained that “God desired to save us by going to the bottom of this abyss [of death] Himself so that every person, even those who have fallen so low that they can no longer perceive Heaven, may find God’s hand to cling to and rise from the darkness to see once again the light for which he or she was made”.

“We all feel, we all inwardly comprehend that our existence is a desire for life which invokes fullness and salvation. This fullness is given to us in baptism”, Pope Benedict said.

“The purpose of Christ’s existence”, he said, “was precisely to give mankind the life of God and His spirit of love, so that every person might be able to draw from this inexhaustible source of salvation.... For this reason Christian parents … bring their children to the baptismal font as soon as possible, knowing that the life they have communicated to them calls for a fullness, a salvation, that only God can give. And in this way the parents become God’s collaborators, transmitting to their children not only physical but also spiritual life”.

Pope Benedict celebrated the Mass according to the ordinary Missal, facing the altar.

A note issued by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff explained that “the wooden platform with a special altar” usually brought in for the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord was not used for this year’s ceremony in the Sistine Chapel.

“It was deemed better to celebrate at the old altar so as not to disturb the beauty and harmony of this architectural masterpiece, maintaining the celebratory aspects of its structure and making use of a possibility contemplated by liturgical norms”, the note explained.

From various news sources

CDF on Baptism

On February 28 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public its responses to two questions concerning the validity of baptism conferred with certain non-standard formulae, as reported by the Vatican Information Service.

The first question is: “Is a baptism valid if conferred with the words ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier’, or ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer’”?

The second question is: “Must people baptized with those formulae be baptized in forma absoluta”? [i.e. absolutely, not “conditionally”]

The responses are: “To the first question, negative; to the second question, affirmative”.

The VIS report continued,

“Benedict XVI, during his recent audience with Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these responses, which were adopted at the ordinary session of the congregation, and ordered their publication. The text of the responses bears the signatures of Cardinal Levada and of Archbishop Angelo Amato, SDB, secretary of the dicastery.

“An attached note explains that the responses ‘concern the validity of baptism conferred with two English-language formulae within the ambit of the Catholic Church.... Clearly, the question does not concern English [translation] but the formula itself, which could also be expressed in another language’.

“‘Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’, the note continues, ‘obeys Jesus’ command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew.... The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith, approximate formulae are unacceptable’.

“‘Variations to the baptismal formula — using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons — as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology’, being an attempt ‘to avoid using the words Father and Son which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity’.

“The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects. Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptized, or who will in the future be baptized, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptized. Hence, they must then be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of ‘non-baptized’”.

— Source: Vatican Information Service

Prayer for the Jews

The Vatican Secretariat of State issued a notice of a change in the Prayer for the Jews on Good Friday, as it appears in the 1962 Missale Romanum. The notice, issued on February 4, follows:

“In reference to the dispositions contained in the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, of July 7, 2007, on the possibility of using the last edition of the Missale Romanum, prior to the Vatican II Council, published in 1962 with the authority of Blessed John XXIII, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has ordered that the Oremus et pro Iudaeis [Prayer for the Jews] of the Liturgy of Good Friday in the aforesaid Missale Romanum be replaced with the following text:

“Oremus et pro Iudaeis. Ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum.

“Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.

“Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines salvi fiant et ad agnitionem veritatis veniant, concede propitius, ut plenitudine gentium in Ecclesiam Tuam intrante omnis Israel salvus fiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

“Such text is to be used, beginning in the current year, in all Celebrations of the Liturgy of Good Friday with the aforementioned Missale Romanum”, the notice said.

Our unofficial translation:

May our God and Lord enlighten their hearts, so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, savior of all men.

Let us pray. Let us kneel. Stand.

Almighty and everlasting God, who desirest that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth, propitiously grant that, the full number of the Gentiles having entered into Thy Church, all Israel may be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The prayer is apparently drawn from Romans 11:25-26. The change affects only the former Missale Romanum, the “extraordinary form”. The Latin prayer in the ordinary Missal is unchanged.

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