Thursday, 27 April 2006

New book shows Pope's concerns for liturgy

Rome, Apr. 27 ( - The Italian publication of a book on the liturgy, with a preface by Pope Benedict XVI, is calling fresh attention to the Pope's interest in liturgical reform, and particularly in recovering the elements of the traditional Latin liturgy.

The Italian publisher Cantagalli held a public presentation on April 27 to introduce Rivolti al Signore, a book written in 2003 by Father Uwe Michael Lang, with a preface by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In the book, Father Lang argues in favor of celebrating Mass ad orientem-- that is, with the priest and the congregation facing in the same direction. Rivolti al Signore appeared in English as Turning Towards the Lord, published by Ignatius Press in 2004. The introduction of the Italian-language edition drew special notice because the preface highlights the Pope's desire for a "reform of the reform" in the liturgy.

The April 27 presentation came at a time when Vatican-watchers are still speculating on whether Pope Benedict might issue a document allowing broader use of the old Latin Mass. Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made one of the presentations at the conference introducing Rivolti al Signore.

His participation added further evidence of the importance of the book. In his preface, written in 2003 when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger notes that Vatican II did not require the celebration of Mass with the priest facing the people, nor did the Council abolish the use of Latin in the liturgy. The future Pope writes that Father Lang's book provides a valuable opportunity to discuss the liturgical changes of Vatican II-- a discussion which Cardinal Ratzinger says is long overdue. The effect of such a discussion, the preface argues, could be to correct erroneous interpretations of Council documents and provide for a more dignified and reverent liturgy.

In his own 2001 book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger made arguments similar to those found in Turning Towards the Lord. He expressed regret that liturgical changes had decreased the spirit of reverence, and particularly that the Mass sometimes appeared to be a "one-man show" featuring the priest-celebrant. Father Uwe Michael Lang, the author of Turning Towards the Lord, is a priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in London, who studied theology in Vienna and Oxford and has written several works on patristics.

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