Interview with Archbishop Piero Marini

Author: ZENIT

Interview with Archbishop Piero Marini

Gianluca Biccini

Balance liturgical form and reform

Archbishop Piero Marini, recently appointed President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, granted L'Osservatore Romano an interview In which the 49th Eucharistic Congress [2008] was discussed as well as issues regarding the debate on liturgical reform. The following is a translation of the interview which was given in Italian.

You have directed the Pontifical Committee since 30 September 2007. Would you give us an overview of these first months?

This appointment has enabled me to continue to be concerned with a sector of ecclesial life that was not entirely new to me. As Master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff I had the opportunity to prepare and take part in the concluding liturgical celebration presided over by the Pope at four International Eucharistic Congresses: in Seoul (1989), in Seville (1993), in Breslavia (1997) and in Rome (2000).

In a certain way, therefore, from the outset I have felt part of the "tradition of these Congresses. Moreover, all the Committee's work is focused on and centres around the Eucharistic Mystery and the actual celebration of the Eucharist.

These first months on the Pontifical Committee, therefore, have been for me like an open window on the celebration of the Eucharist, source and summit of the Church's life.

Two months remain before the 49th international Eucharistic Congress that will be held in Quebec. How are the preparations proceeding?

For this celebration I must thank those who have worked hard to organize this important Congress. First of all my predecessor, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, who worked on the preparatory phase that began in 2004, immediately after the Congress in Guadalajara. I must also thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, for the enthusiasm, competence and commitment that he has dedicated to the Congress. The Cardinal Archbishop and the particular Church of Quebec have been responsible for most of the preparations in the past few years.

I hope that the Congress will be a source of life and mark a new Springtime for the Church in Quebec, in Canada and throughout the world.

Benedict XVI has recently invited the faithful to "rethink the celebration of Mass". He has done so precisely with an explicit reference to one of the most important Eucharistic Congresses in history, the Congress held in Munich 1960 at which the concept of the "Statio Orbis" came into being. The Pope also referred to two practical problems: the informed participation of the faithful which could be lacking, and the excessive number of concelebrants. What is your opinion on the point raised?

As from the second half of the last century, just before the Second Vatican Council and also following Pius XII's reforms which concerned the Easter Vigil and Holy Week, attention at Eucharistic Congresses was increasingly focused on the celebration of Mass, as well as on adoration and the Eucharistic procession: this is proven by the title Statio Orbis, which was given to the concluding celebration of the 37th Congress in Bavaria. Since then, the concluding celebration of the Eucharistic Congresses has acquired the features of an interval during which the particular Churches of the various parts of the globe join in communion with the Pope or one of his Legates around the Eucharistic Mystery in order to express and deepen their faith.

However it is clear that the phenomenon of large celebrations developed especially after the Council. In addition to the means of social communication two factors made a crucial contribution: the relationship between liturgical celebration and Church as highlighted by the Second Vatican Council, and the Papal Apostolic Journeys which have henceforth become a characteristic expression of the exercise of the Petrine Ministry.

Celebrations at which the Pope presides have thus, become an image of the Church's unity and catholicity. Some of them however, especially those with a great number of the faithful, such as the World Youth Days, raise certain problems that are difficult to solve. They concern the number of concelebrants, the distribution of Communion to the faithful and more generally, their actual participation.

The Pope has already given several instructions concerning the participation of concelebrating priests, establishing the condition that they be seated on the presbyteral platform so that their proximity to the altar can be seen.

However, active participation still presents various problems that need to be resolved, bearing in mind that the celebration of the Eucharist came into being for a community of a limited size.

Statio, a term used in the medieval period at the Eucharistic Congress in Munich and reproposed to the whole Church by the new Cerimonialeepiscoporum, which calls a Mass at which a Bishop presides a Missa stationalis, has as its subject precisely the community meeting in assembly, whereas the title Missa pontificalis had the Pontifex as its subject. The term Statio refers in the first place to the local community gathered together (statio) for the celebration: and therefore always indicates that the size of the community which gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist is in a certain way limited.

On the same occasion Benedict XVI asked that concrete solutions be found for what he considers still constitutes a problem. Can the Pontifical Committee come up with the answers?

For several decades the problem has been in the limelight. In my opinion it should be seriously studied and liturgical and pastoral guidelines drawn up.

Today the debate on liturgical reform which resulted from the Council seems once again to be the centre of attention. How should one evaluate the ground covered in these 40 years? Since the period of the Second Vatican Council, I have followed the implementation of liturgical reform for at least 22 years, first in the Consilium ad exsequendam constitutionem de SacraLiturgia and then at the Congregation for Divine Worship. Later, for more than 20 years, I was able to celebrate the liturgy desired by the Council in more than 100 countries on the occasion of Pope Wojtyta's travels. Thus, I was able to organize with the local experts innumerable celebrations of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Word of God, the sacraments and ecumenical celebrations in a great variety of languages and cultures.

The liturgy desired by the Council was celebrated everywhere with lively participation and enthusiasm. Everyone perceived the liturgy as belonging to the local Church and at the same time as an expression of the universal Church. Celebratory practice has confirmed that the liturgical reform was necessary because it was based on profound theological principles and perennial validity. It is therefore an irreversible path.

The Council Fathers and the Roman Pontiff in Sacrosanctum Concilium, making their own the words of  Pius XII, defined the renewal of liturgy as the Holy Spirit's passage through the Church.

The significance of this affirmation is therefore part of the fabric of daily ecclesial faith. Thus, the celebration of the liturgy cannot be separated from the life of the Church. And the Church which lives — I cite Paul VI — is the Church of today, not the Church of yesterday or of tomorrow.

This is the reason why the Council was concerned first and foremost with the liturgy. For the Council, the renewal of the Church, ecumenism and missionary action depend on the way in which the liturgy is lived.

But celebrating the liturgy desired by the Council, as Pope Montini said, is not easy, just as it is not easy to live the life of the Church. Indeed, celebrating the liturgy of the Council is something difficult and delicate. Direct and methodical intervention, perseverance, personal and loving commitment and much pastoral charity are required. However, all this is necessary if we want the life of the Church to be renewed and everyone to feel called to salvation. The pastoral care of the liturgy is always a permanent commitment.

We should, therefore, let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit who inspired the liturgical movement, Paul VI and the Council Fathers, and continue to carry on the pastoral care of the liturgy in our ecclesial communities with renewed commitment and enthusiasm.

Many have Interpreted Summorum Pontificum (dated 7 July 2007) as a setback in this process of Implementation. What is your opinion on this matter?

The text of the Motu Proprio should be read in the context in which the Pope placed it.

Benedict XVI wrote in the cover Letter to the Bishops: "This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 11 July 2007, p. 9).

For Catholics the Pope is the visible sign of unity in the Church, he is the Bishop of the Church of Rome called to preside in charity over all the other Churches. The Pope was called by the Lord to exercise the Petrine Ministry, that is, to make every effort to ensure that the Church network remains intact.

Therefore, he has the right and the duty to provide for the unity of the Church. Who can deny he has this duty or obligation? The Liturgy itself, for those who live it authentically, is a school at which one learns the true meaning of the Church with respect for the different tasks and ministries and obedience to the person who presides.

Lastly it should be remembered that the Motu Proprio does not intend to introduce modifications into the current Roman Missal nor to express a negative judgement on the liturgical reform desired by the Council.

The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the "law of prayer"; the Missal promulgated by St. Pius V must be considered as an extraordinary expression of the same "law of prayer".

With this new provision, Benedict XVI desired to allay the fear that "the Document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council. one of whose essential decisions — the liturgical reform — is being called into question" (ibid.).

Indeed, the Pope's decision has not yet brought any change to the celebratory practices of our ecclesial communities. His action was merely a gesture at the service of unity. Let us therefore look ahead and continue enthusiastically on the journey begun by the Council.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
14 May 2008, page 10

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