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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Vatican Commission Cracks Down on Church Architecture

The new commission will be established shortly, as part of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It will also be in charge of music and singing in the liturgy

By Andrea Tornielli

Diocese of Orange's new Crystal Cathedral
A team has been set up, to put a stop to garage style churches, boldly shaped structures that risk denaturing modern places for Catholic worship. Its task is also to promote singing that really helps the celebration of mass. The “Liturgical art and sacred music commission” will be established by the Congregation for Divine Worship over the coming weeks. This will not be just any office, but a true and proper team, whose task will be to collaborate with the commissions in charge of evaluating construction projects for churches of various dioceses. The team will also be responsible for the further study of music and singing that accompany the celebration of mass.

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Benedict XVI, consider this work as “very urgent”. The reality is staring everyone in the eyes: in recent decades, churches have been substituted by buildings that resemble multi purpose halls. Too often, architects, even the more famous ones, do not use the Catholic liturgy as a starting point and thus end up producing avant-garde constructions that look like anything but a church. These buildings composed of cement cubes, glass boxes, crazy shapes and confused spaces, remind people of anything but the mystery and sacredness of a church. Tabernacles are semi hidden, leading faithful on a real treasure hunt and sacred images are almost inexistent. The new commission’s regulations will be written up over the next few days and will give precise instructions to dioceses. It will only be responsible for liturgical art, not for sacred art in general; and this also goes for liturgical music and singing too. The judicial powers of the Congregation for Divine Worship will have the power to act.

As is known, last 27 September, Benedict XVI transferred jurisdiction of two areas, from the Congregation for the Divine Worship to the Rota Romana (the Holy See’s Court of Appeal), under the motu proprio Quaerit simper. The first of these areas is the nullity of priestly ordination, which similarly to marriage, can be annulled due to defect of form, consensus and intention, by both the ordaining bishop and the priest who is ordained. The second area is the special licence for marriages that have been contracted but not consummated. These are practices that occupied a lot of Cañizares’ time as head of the dicastery.

In his motu proprio, the Pope explained: “Under the current circumstances, it seemed convenient for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the discipline of the sacraments to be mainly devoted to giving fresh impetus to the promotion of the Church’s sacred liturgy, according to the renewal required by the Second Vatican Council since the establishment of the Sacrosanctum Concilium.” The dicastery must therefore devote itself to “giving fresh impulse” to the promotion of the liturgy, giving it the focus insisted upon by Benedict XVI, including and above all by showing an example. In this aspect, in contract to the initial plans, the idea of a liturgical “reform of the reform” (an expression used by Ratzinger himself when he was a cardinal), seems to be eclipsed by a large-scale project favouring the ars celebrandi and a loyalty to the dictates and instructions of the new missal. It does so without proposing any modifications to the mass.

It is worth remembering, in fact, that the abuse of the liturgy that has gone on in recent decades, becoming common practice, is committed against the laws established by Paul VI’s liturgical reform. It is not therefore the reform that needs to be amended; rather, further study into the sense of the liturgy and its proper celebration is needed and must be salvaged in some cases. It is for this reason that the Congregation for Divine Worship intends to promote the training of priests, clerics and catechists, starting from the bare basics. By following the example and teaching of Benedict XVI, the Congregation aims to revive a sense of the sacredness and mystery of the liturgy.

Some liturgical texts need to be reviewed, because they are dated, as is the case of the penitence ritual, published in 1974. Indeed, in the years that followed, an apostolic teaching, a motu proprio, a new Code of Canon Law and a new Catechism were published. In this and in some other cases, updates will be needed. The idea Cardinal Cañizares is working on, is that of reaffirming the primacy of grace in human actions, of the need to give space to God’s action in the liturgy as opposed to actions which are left up to human creativity. There will be many opportunities to reflect on these topics. The year 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the year after that will mark the 50th anniversary of the first approved conciliar text, the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the sacred liturgy.

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