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Online Edition - Vol. VIII, No. 3: May 2002

Popular devotions, pious practices, encouraged in Holy See's new directory

Processions, passion plays, popular devotions and other pious practices are the subject of a new directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship April 9.

In a press conference introducing the new 300 page directory, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevéz , prefect of the CDW, mentioned that "when, out of a desire for liturgical purity, expressions of popular piety are chased away, our faith is impoverished".

The directory, available only in Italian, urges respect for popular devotions. Cardinal Medina said that it is intended to persuade bishops and those he called "liturgical purists" to support expressions of popular piety, to educate the faithful about their connection to the fundamentals of Christian faith and to purify them of any tendency toward superstition.

"The danger of superstition is a circuitous psychological phenomenon which is a danger in all forms of religious expression", Cardinal Medina observed. "The solution is not to throw it all out, but to purify it through evangelization and education".

At the press conference, Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino , secretary of the CDW, commented that "[S]uperstition stops at the object, with the person thinking it has power, while the objects of popular devotion refer to a mystery. For example, holy water reminds one of baptism, of belonging to Christ and of the need for constant conversion".

The directory's discussion of expressions of popular piety - Advent wreaths, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Corpus Christi processions and pilgrimages, etc. - makes it clear that these forms of devotion should enhance, not replace, the celebration of the Mass and should be in accord with the Church's liturgical seasons.

Commenting on the veneration of relics of saints, the directory asks bishops to assure that the relics are authentic, and that people must be mindful of the dignity of the human body.

The directory speaks of passion plays and processions, cautioning that they should not become "folkloristic displays" that are primarily tourist attractions.

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