The Colombo Statement

Author: CDW

The Colombo Statement

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Convention for the promotion of the sacred liturgy in Asia

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in collaboration with the Bishops' Conferences of Asia organized a Convention for the Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy in Colombo from 16-21 September 2008. The Convention represented an important step in intensifying the liturgical renewal envisaged by the Second Vatican Council while also examining effective ways to foster appropriate forms of worship in Asia. The following is the Colombo Statement.

The representatives of 19 Bishops' Conferences of Asia met together at a Convention with the Cardinal Prefect along with the Secretary and other representatives of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Colombo from 16 to 21 September 2008, on the theme: "Promotion of Sacred Liturgy in Asia: 'Liturgy as a Glimpse of Heaven on Earth'". The convention was enlivened by inspiring liturgies, thought-provoking talks and lively discussions in groups and in the general assembly.

Cardinal Francis Arinze introduced the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments as the expression of the Supreme Pontiffs concern for the liturgical animation of the Church. As determined by the Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, the promotion of pastoral liturgical action, the preparation of the texts for use in the Sacred Liturgy and their recognitio in the vernacular languages, vigilance over observance of liturgical norms, promotion of sacred music and sacred art, of popular devotions and some canonical matters pertaining to ordinations and marriage an: its areas of competence.

Other speakers dealt with the magisterial teaching of Pope Benedict XVI on Liturgy, the norms guiding inculturation, the translation of liturgical books, the encounter of the Gospel with cultures, the process of recognitio by the Holy See, the role of the national and diocesan commissions for the promotion of liturgy and liturgical formation in seminaries and houses of formation of men and women religious.

Worship in an Asian Context

1. One of the most important goals of the convention was to recapture the age-old religious fervour of Asia and bring it to the service of liturgical renewal so ardently desired by the Second Vatican Council. While rejoicing over the fidelity of the "little flock" of Christians on this vast continent to the Gospel and the forms of worship that were handed down to them, the participants expressed a deep longing for a renewal of spirit based on the ever urgent necessity to promote the liturgical life in the Church together with the cultural genius of the communities they represented.

2. The "sense of the sacred" stands at the heart of the cultural values to which all Asian people are most attached. An aura of holiness is expected to surround every element related to worship. In order to better live out the Gospel, the Christian community derives spiritual strength and motivation from its own definitive prayer traditions which took on their present form and identity over centuries of experience. Originating from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, these traditions constitute the rich heritage of the Catholic Liturgy. Liturgy has developed a distinctive individuality of its own and is organic in nature and venerable in its historical continuity over two millennia. Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes this continuity and points out that the Church is the guardian of this great heritage (cf. Sacramentum caritatis, n. 3).

3. The Holy Father's vision and deep understanding of Sacred Liturgy is evident both in his magisterial teachings and the example that he gives when celebrating the Divine Mysteries. His cosmic theology of the worship of the whole Church resonates in an Asian context and his affirmation of a hermeneutic of continuity is welcome in cultures which have a deep sense of living tradition and organic development.

4. Asians are deeply attached to their cultures and proud of their civilizational heritage. Delegates remembered how in earlier ages the Church touched with the power of the Gospel the cultural geniuses of the Germans, Celts, Slays, Syrians and Egyptians, for example, stirred them to new life in Christ and offered them salvation, and how she herself in turn was enriched by the cultural wealth of these peoples. So too it is a historic moment today when the great civilizations of Asia with enormous potentialities for the future are in encounter with the Church and the Gospel she announces. This encounter leads them step by step to have a "glimpse of heaven on earth" in divine worship.

5. The Church considers that effective use of cultures could enhance and help enrich the Christian liturgy. Inculturation in matters of language, gestures, postures, art and music is important. But this process has to be carried out and strengthened further and especially with a great sense of responsibility, never ignoring the organic nature of the cultures concerned and the historic continuity of the Catholic Liturgy. Seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer, a prudent sensitivity towards the sensus fidei of the Catholic People needs to be kept in mind.

6. When pastoral zeal combines with cultural and religious sensitivity new ground is broken. On the contrary, hasty and unreflected changes weaken or damage the religious significance and life-transforming power of worship. Asian values of contemplation, mysticism, and silence could find stronger expression in Christian Liturgy.

Reflections on the Liturgical Situation in Asia

7. Participants rejoiced at the many achievements in these countries in aspects such as liturgical participation, translations, community involvement, training of personnel as well as careful forms of inculturation. The quality of Catholic liturgy, its sense of prayer, its rich symbolism and music not only deepen the life of the particular Churches but effectively help to evangelize many people.

8. They highlighted the complex situation in the day-to-day life of the Church in many countries. Some counties continue to suffer from poverty, insecurity due to migration, violence and religious and other forms of extremism. Some do not enjoy freedom of religion, and others have just emerged from the "Catacombs". In almost all these countries, the Church constitutes a minority of the population and is marginalized and even persecuted.

9. These varied situations hinder the promotion of liturgical life. The Churches under persecution have little possibility of expressing their identity as worshipping communities. Those that have recently come out of persecution are struggling to establish the basic structures.

10.  Some local Churches lack trained personnel of native origin who could further the growth of a profound sense of adoration as well as spiritual and moral renewal in their communities. Others do not have trained personnel to coordinate the work of translating liturgical texts, organizing formation programme and promoting liturgical life.

Practical Suggestions

(a) Congregation for Divine Worship and National Commissions for Liturgy

II. There was widespread consensus among the delegates on the following matters:

• there be more effective contacts and communication between the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and National Bishops' Conferences and the National Commission for Liturgy;

• the use of the internet would facilitate access to documents of the Holy See on Sacred Liturgy arid enable the Congregation to give official explanations about or commentaries on documents for the benefit of clergy, religious and lay faithful and to develop correct forms of liturgical renewal;

• where possible, the Congregation could provide liturgical texts and translations through the Internet;

• representatives from the Congregation for Divine Worship could organize occasional training and ongoing formation programme for the members of the national commission for Liturgy;

• if a language goes beyond one territory, the countries involved could form a joint commission for translation on the basis of the indication given by the Liturgiam Authenticam.

(b) Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences

12. It was very much desired that the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) consider establishing a specific office or desk to help promote liturgical life in Asia.

(c) Liturgical Abuses

13. The delegates expressed their anxiety about many liturgical abuses particularly relating to the Holy Eucharist. Consensus was expressed on the following matters that:

• liturgical celebrations should be in tune with the Asian spirit of devotion and sense of the sacred but according to the norms prescribed by the liturgical books;

• local Ordinaries and National Conferences of Bishops should carefully ensure the proper observance of liturgical norms;

• Bishops have the obligation to keep vigilance over liturgical orthopraxis as the chief liturgists in their own dioceses (cf. Sacramentum caritatis, n. 39);

• they are also responsible for Liturgy in the houses of religious men and women, ashrams and religious movements;

• religious superiors have the special responsibility of ensuring that the communities under their care faithfully low liturgical norms;

• a report about liturgical life in the diocese might be sent every three years for the study by the National Commission for Liturgy.

(d) Liturgical Formation

14. Proper celebration of Liturgy depends on the formation of priests, religious and lay faithful.

• All seminaries should have qualified personnel to teach and animate liturgy. Liturgy should be given greater importance in academic formation, not only in the seminaries but also in the formation houses of religious men and women.

• To strengthen liturgical formation and in coherence with the magisterial teachings, especially of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI on the hermeneutic of continuity, it would be helpful if the Holy Eucharist be occasionally celebrated in Latin in cathedral churches, bigger parishes, seminaries, shrines and so forth.

• The National Commission for Liturgy should organize an ongoing formation programme for the individual dioceses in the country.

• All priests should be educated on the revised General. Instruction of the Roman Missal to better understand the content and spirit of liturgical norms. They should be enabled to cultivate the art of celebrating (ars celebrandi). With proper training and solid prayer life, this should help them to achieve an interior preparation to be the servants of the sacred mysteries and to encounter the inner beauty and mystery of the sacrifice of the Mass (cf. Sacramentum caritatis, nn. 32-42).

• As the liturgist par excellence, the diocesan bishop should be a model for his priests in the art of celebrating.

• Existing formation programme for laity should be strengthened and developed in content and method.

(c) Liturgical Practices

15. Delegates also made suggestions in the following areas of liturgical life.

• Music in Sacred Liturgy should be truly liturgical, that is, the Church's loving praise of God. While it also promotes active participation, it should not be left to the whims and subjective initiatives of individuals. It would be appropriate to promote local traditional music and also the Gregorian chant and to discourage hymns that do not represent the deeper sense of sound doctrine and the sacred.

• While popular devotions are important, every effort should he made to harmonize these practices with the liturgical year and celebrations, maintaining the distinction between Liturgy and personal devotions.

• Eucharistic adoration, so strongly endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI (cf. Sacramentum caritatis, nn. 66-69), should be promoted. The delegates supported the setting up of adoration chapels, with due episcopal approval, independently of the main church building where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated.


The tasks ahead for the Church in Asia which forms a minority community is challenging indeed. New horizons are opening out before the Christian community for bearing a power-lid witness to the Gospel. These include: inculturating the Message in various cultural contexts, stirring communities to life with the grace of the Gospel, developing prayer-forms in keeping with the genius of the people, bringing prayer-experience closer to people through translations and the use of culturally meaningful symbolism. The efforts for genuine and authentic inculturation are bound to he successful wherever a healthy consensus can he worked out within a local Church, under the guidance of pastors who are alert to cultural, religious and pastoral sensibilities of people, and under the guidance of Bishops' Conferences that are eager to preserve the sense of the sacred and the historical continuity of Catholic Liturgy. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments would continue to offer fraternal assistance to these most edifying efforts.

Liturgy is the eternal prayer of Christ the High Priest, offering himself up to the Father through the Holy Spirit in his living body the Church. We confidently entrust our work of promoting the worthy worship of Cod to the intercession of Our Lady of Lanka, to whose shrine the participants made a pilgrimage during the convention in Colombo.

Colombo, 20 September 2008.

Francis Cardinal Arinze

Malcolm Ranjith
Archbishop Secretary

Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-Kium, S.D.B.
Bishop of Hong Kong

Orlando Quevedo,
Archbishop of Cotabato
Secretary General of FABC

Romtmo G. Valles
Archbishop of Zamboanga, the Philippines

Thomas Menamparampil, S.D.B.
Archbishop of Guwahati, India

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
29 October 2008, page 28

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