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Bishops and Liturgy

There were two unusual features of the 11.00 am Mass at St Patrick's cathedral in Melbourne on 22 December 2002.

For the Kyrie Archbishop Hart gave the direction "Please sit". He has not said that for months. Usually he just sits, even though the Roman Missal says to stand, and most people follow him. I usually remain standing, but I sat with the direction "Please sit".

During the hymn after communion we usually sit. This is in accordance with the Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 166:

"When the bishop returns to the chair after communion, he puts on the skullcap and, if need be, washes his hands. All are seated and a period of prayerful silence may follow, or a song of praise or a psalm may be sung."

At this Mass we were singing "Immaculate Mary, We Praise God in You". It has the refrain "Ave, ave, ave, Maria" and nine verses. I think Archbishop Hart stood at about the beginning of the eight verse and the congregation stood while singing. Then he seemed to interrupt the nineth verse with "Lets us Pray" and he sang the Prayer After Communion.

I found it encouraging that Cardinal Arinze's criticisms extended to bishops, as well as lectors, choir members and priests:

"... He complained that "many bishops and priests have not adequately studied the texts of the Council," and as a result changes in the liturgy have often been done improperly. ..."

The 1998 Statement of Conclusions included:

"42. Weaknesses and Correctives. A weakness in parish liturgical celebrations in Australia is the tendency on the part of some priests and parishes to make their own changes to liturgical texts and structures, whether by omissions, by additions or by substitutions, occasionally even in central texts such as the Eucharistic Prayer. Practices foreign to the tradition of the Roman Rite are not to be introduced on the private initiative of priests, who are ministers and servants, rather than masters of the sacred Rites (Sacrosanctum Concilium 22 § 3; Instruction Inaestimabile Donum 5). Any unauthorized changes, while perhaps well-intentioned, are nevertheless seriously misguided. The bishops of Australia, then, will continue to put their energy above all into education, while correcting these abuses individually. Such education and corrective action are also the effective means for the pastoral care of those at the parish level who criticize and report the efforts of others, sometimes justly, but sometimes in a judgmental, selective, ill-informed and unproductive manner."


Perhaps there is now a clearer appreciation that bishops are part of the problem in changing the liturgy, not just the priests in parishes.

By J.R. Lilburne, 23 December 2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

cathtelecom.com "Cardinal Arinze criticises priests who meddle with the Mass"

vatican.va 1998 Statement of Conclusions