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Reform of liturgical language. (United States).

Washington--The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is taking the latest document for the reform of liturgical language seriously. Liturgiam authenticam, issued May 8, 2001, was welcomed by then president Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston, Texas in June. The chairman of the Conference's liturgy committee, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, also accepted it wholeheartedly, declaring it to be "irreformable and binding. It is not a provisional text." (June 4-16, Atlanta meeting).

While previous leaders in liturgical development such as Bishops Donald Trautman of Erie, Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, and Maurice Taylor of Galloway, Scotland, the chairman of ICEL (International Commission for the English Liturgy), publicly sulked and expressed their unhappiness, the great majority of American bishops have set their shoulders squarely behind the new direction indicated by the May 2001 document. This is of great importance for the other English-language conferences, including Canada. The United States with 65 million Catholics far outweighs any of them.

The USCCB's relevant committees, under the supervision of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, have begun to restructure ICEL, which is stationed in Washington. In a July 16 address in Santa Paula, California, the Cardinal expressed gratitude for the document and praised its insistence on fidelity to the Church's Latin heritage. During the previous 20 years, many prayers and antiphons were created anew, with little reference to the original sacred language.

Liturgiam authenticam is not a novelty. Already in September 1997, Rome sent back the translation of the American Ordination Rite for a complete revision. Immediately after that, the Congregation of Divine Worship, under Cardinal Medina Estevez, ordered ICEL to change its methodology, philosophy and whole attitude towards the use and purpose of liturgical language; it especially condemned the distortions brought about by the use of so-called inclusive language (see C.I., March 2000, "Rebuke to ICEL").

In their November 2001 Washington meeting, the USCCB did several things. The bishops sent the translation of the new GIRM (General Instruction for the Roman Missal), newly issued in Latin in June 2000, back to the translators to be redone (see C.I., Jan/Feb 2002, p.19). They elected Cardinal George as the new chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy; he promptly reiterated that the May 2001 document marks a whole new and decisive phase. After that they prepared the American faithful for the fact that most of the documents sent to Rome for approval, including the Roman Missal--the book the celebrant of the Eucharist uses on the altar--will have to be reworked. They and the other Conferences have five years to do it.


The Conference did one more thing. With a large majority, 138 to 32, the bishops confirmed kneeling during the Mass from "Holy, Holy, Holy" to the beginning of the "Our Father" (see Toronto's Cardinal Ambrozic, C.L, Nov. 2001, p.25, for the same).

Clearly, the American bishops are determined to end the banality of much modern liturgical language. Also, they won't put up any longer with the willfulness of individual priests and liturgists who change texts and forms of the common liturgy as they see fit.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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