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Online Edition - Vol. IX, No. 9:

December 2003 - January 2004

Cardinal George Addresses
Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions

Following are excerpts from the address of Chicago Cardinal Francis George to the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) national meeting held October 7-11 in San Antonio, Texas. Cardinal Francis Arinze's address to this convention of diocesan liturgists, "Some Highlights of Liturgical Renewal initiated by Sacrosanctum Concilium", appeared in AB, November 2003, p 1). - Editor.

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Since its very beginning, the FDLC has sought to provide the best counsel to the Bishops based on the good work accomplished each day in the parishes, on the front line, if you like, of the liturgical renewal.

On the 40th Anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, sponsored by the Committee on the Liturgy a few months ago, Cardinal Arinze stated that the Constitution and the Holy Father's reflection on its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1988, Vicesimus Quintus Annus, "are concerned above all with restoring the awe, the wonderment of the first disciples at the presence of Our Lord in the midst of their celebration of the Eucharist and in their pastoral endeavors".

The New Roman Missal

The BCL Staff has presented workshops to more than 15,000 priests and deacons in seventy-two dioceses over the past two years and has provided extensive web-based resource materials.... Close to 50,000 English language copies of the BCL edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) have been sold.... Later this year we expect to see the publication of three new resources from the Committee on the Liturgy: the Pastoral Introduction of the Order of Mass; 35 Years of the BCL Newsletter, and Twenty-Eight Questions on Eucharistic Adoration.

Milestones in Translation

Finally, ICEL [the International Committee on English in the Liturgy] itself has made significant progress in its translation of the Missale Romanum.... The basis for that translation is the translation of the second typical edition, revised in the light of the principles of Liturgiam authenticam.... ICEL hopes to complete its translation of the Roman Missal sometime in the next two to three years.

Revised ritual

A task group headed by Bishop George Murry, SJ, of the Virgin Islands, and which included several FDLC members, has completed a revision of the ritual edition of Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest. (Note: see USCCB report, page 4.)

The Liturgical Assembly

It is, therefore, essential for us to always bear in mind the words "Lord, I am not worthy ... speak but the word ..." are just as expressive of our state at the beginning of Mass as they are before the reception of Holy Communion. Such humility is indispensable to all the baptized who seek to respond to Christ's call, as well as to the liturgist who is called to support and serve the sacred mysteries.

The Role of Bishops

Unlike churches and ecclesial communions of a more congregational ecclesiology, the Catholic Church places the authority for moderation and regulation of the Sacred Liturgy in the hands of her Bishops -- not as a political act or as a measure of control, although there is control involved, but as a natural consequence of her belief that the Liturgy belongs to Christ and has been given for safekeeping to His Apostles and their successors.

It is the responsibility of bishops, therefore, to guard carefully this inestimable treasure, preserving it against both the rust of outmoded forms and the corruption of unwarranted innovations.

I receive many letters from people who are upset that we are addressing changes in the Mass at a time when authority of all sorts is challenged. They accuse us of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. Furthermore, they suggest: "You are making us change habits which we have a right to maintain".

Bishops sometimes do not exercise their authority correctly, and where they did not exercise authority in overseeing priests, they were lax.

Even the appropriate exercise of episcopal authority is made difficult in today's world because, more deeply than the sexual abuse scandal, we are experiencing a general secularization of the culture and of each one of us.

When God is seen as a threat to human freedom, we have a sense of God as oppressor. If God is powerful and a threat to human freedom, then God has to be tamed and religious authority has to be contained. Thus, if God must be rendered powerless, then religious authority has no power itself. This, I would suggest, is the greatest obstacle to any kind of liturgical change done with any kind of authority, including your own authority as diocesan liturgists.

The Role of Liturgists

All of which is not to say ... that the Liturgy belongs only to the bishops and their liturgists.

Bishops could not do their jobs without your own role being played. Diocesan liturgists have an indispensable role in the renewal and promotion of the Sacred Liturgy.... The adaptations of the Missale Romanum ... were influenced greatly by your expertise and counsel.

You can always find a precedent. But precedent alone is not sufficient reason for change.

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Source: "Address of Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. to the 2003 National Meeting of The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions". BCL Newsletter (Volume XXXIX September/October 2003).

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