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Australian Liturgy

On Monday I received an email from Father Martin Wallace, O.P. It referred me to a bulletin of the National Liturgical Commission "Australian Liturgy".

In the edition No. 5 of November 1977, page 27, it has Directives of the Australian Episcopal Conference Concerning the Sacred Liturgy:

K. MAY 1975.

1. "That the double genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament exposed be retained in Australia". - Carried.

2. "That the Divine Praises be retained at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament". - Carried.

The first of these directly contradicted the instruction in the liturgical book: "De Sacra Communione et de Cultu Mysterii Eucharistici Extra Missam" (i.e. Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass). Instead of a double genuflection (on both knees) for the consecrated host in the monstrance, there was to be a normal single genuflection (on one knee):

"84. A single genuflection is made in the presence of the blessed sacrament, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public adoration."

Does the Conference of Bishops have the authority to reverse this? Not on their own, according to n. 12:

"12. It is for episcopal conferences, in the preparation of rituals in accord with the Constitution on the Liturgy (no. 63b), to accommodate this title of the Roman Ritual to the needs of the individual regions so that, their actions having been confirmed by the Apostolic See, the ritual may be followed in the respective regions.

In this matter it will be for the conferences:

a) to consider carefully and prudently what elements, if any, of popular traditions may be retained or introduced, provided they can be harmonised with the spirit of the liturgy, and then to propose to the Apostolic See the adaptations they judge necessary or useful; these may be introduced with the consent of the Apostolic See."

The Australian edition of Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass (ISBN 0 85574 401 4) was published in 1975, with the imprimatur of Cardinal Freeman, dated 19 November 1975. It makes no reference to the double genuflection or Divine Praises. To the best of my knowledge no later edition of this book has been published for Australia.

But in July 1976 Australian Liturgy, No. 2 was published. Father Denis Hart (then aged 35, now Archbishop of Melbourne) was Secretary-Treasurer of the Commission. It included an article: "Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass -- a Summary -- Father Denis Hart". It has on page 19:

"84. A single genuflection is made in the presence of the blessed sacrament, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public adoration.

* (The Australian Bishops have decided to retain the double genuflection when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed - A.E.C. May, 1975.)"

Despite considerable research, I have no evidence of the double genuflection ever having been approved by the Apostolic See.

If it had been approved then there should have been an reference to the letter of approval.

If it was not approved this would be consistent with the liturgical book. It would explain why the Australian edition made no reference to the double genuflection when it was published in November 1975. In this case, I think it was wrong of Father Denis Hart to write about, and so introduce this adaptation, without the consent of the Apostolic See.

In "Liturgical Question Box" Msgr. Peter Elliott wrote on this issue:

"In Australia, the bishops decided to retain the double genuflection, and Rome confirmed their decision, so it is still required in that country." (page 65).

Most Reverend Denis Hart gave his imprimatur for this book on 22 December 1997.

So what should people do in Australia today? Faithfully follow the liturgical books as approved by the competent authority (Canon 846). In that case it should be a single genuflection. This would also be consistent with the Ceremonial of Bishops (1984):

1103. Genuflection in the presence of the blessed sacrament exposed for public adoration is on one knee.

If approval has been given by the Vatican then this should be properly promulgated.

By J.R. Lilburne, 7 November 2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

Adoremus on double genuflection, October 2002