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George Pell Biography

A couple of weeks ago I bought the biography of Archbishop Pell by Tess Livingstone. I have found it particularly interesting as an account of his time as Archbishop of Melbourne, when I was a seminarian for 18 months.

But the portrait of him regarding liturgy is complicated.

From page 347:

"The supreme irony of pointing the finger at Pell and his friends in regards to "bells and smells" is that many of his friends, including Fisher and Peter Elliott, an internationally respected author on liturgy, have often quipped that "George doesn't have a liturgical bone in his body" and sometimes has trouble remembering where to stand, where to put his hands and many of the other complex rubrics of Catholic liturgy. "Just like Pope John Paul II, it doesn't interest him," Fisher says."

This "Fisher" is Father Anthony Fisher, who taught me medieval philosophy last year.

But on page 390 a different picture is presented:

"Catholics in some parts of Australia are accustomed to priests: making up their own words even for the most solemn parts of the Mass, including the Eucharistic prayer; leaving out the Creed or substituting a different one that talks about the environment and Church's weaknesses instead of 'the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church'; substituting the scriptural readings of the day with different Biblical passages or non-scriptural readings; and the regular omission of significant sections of the Mass, such as the preparation of the gifts for the Consecration.

Like Cardinal Ratzinger, Pell sees some merit in the idea of the priest facing away from the people during the Consecration, as he believes that facing the people can put too much emphasis on the priest himself at the expense of concentrating on God and the Consecration. However, to set an example to his priests, he follows the rubrics of the Roman Missal to the letter when saying Mass and celebrating all the Sacraments."

At least following the rubrics to the letter is a good ideal for him to have. But at the last Mass I saw him (in Melbourne for an ordination on 19 June 2002) he was sitting for the Gloria, which the rubrics say to stand for.

Father Fisher seems to be saying that Archbishop Pell is not interested in rubrics. I think there is some truth in that. But its also a difficult area to be interested in.

Archbishop Pell is chairman of the Vox Clara committee helping approved the translation of the Roman Missal. In this role it would be difficult to justify not being interested in rubrics. Its encouraging to see in their press release the involvement of Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

By J.R. Lilburne 26 November 2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other Sites:

About the biography on the Sydney Archdiocese

Vox Clara Press Release of 19 November 2002