John Paul II Urges Examination of Conscience on Liturgical Reform

On 40th Anniversary of Vatican II's "Sacrosanctum Concilium"

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II has called for an examination of conscience on the application of the Second Vatican Council's constitution on the sacred liturgy.



In this connection, the Pope has written an apostolic letter on "the 40th anniversary of the conciliar constitution 'Sacrosanctum Concilium' on the liturgy," published Friday by the Vatican press office.

The text, published only in Italian for now, was signed by John Paul II last Thursday, the actual anniversary of the constitution's publication.

The examination is to "verify the road traveled so far" in regard to the "reception of Vatican Council II," especially with respect to the "liturgical-sacramental life" of the Church, the Holy Father wrote.

"Is the liturgy lived as the 'source and culmination of ecclesial life,' according to the teaching of 'Sacrosanctum Concilium'?" is the first question in the apostolic letter.

"Has the rediscovery of the value of the Word of God brought about by the liturgical reform found a positive acceptance in our celebrations?" the Pope asks. "Up to what point has the liturgy become a part of the concrete life of the faithful and marks the rhythm of each one of the communities?"

"Is the liturgy understood as the path of holiness, inner force of apostolic dynamism and of the Church's missionary character?" he adds.

The liturgical renewal needs a "proper formation of ministers and of all the faithful," the Holy Father says, while offering guidelines for the "conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations desired by the Council."

This is why the Pontiff considers that a "liturgical pastoral program" is necessary in fidelity to the new documents issued by the Holy See which regulate it.

In addition, the Pope says that liturgical reform calls for the rediscover of Sunday -- "synthesis of the Christian life and condition to live it well" -- and of the "art of prayer" -- "not only through the Liturgy, but also through pious practices."

The thirst for God that contemporary men and women experience, despite secularization, must be slaked by intimate contact with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the Pope explains.

Therefore, the Holy Father calls for the promotion of "fitting celebrations, paying due attention to the different categories of people: children, youths, adults, the elderly, the handicapped."

"All should feel welcome in our assemblies, to be able to breathe the atmosphere of the first believing community," he writes.

John Paul II also encourages the rediscovery of the "experience of silence" in Christian communities.

"In a society that lives ever more frenetically, often deafened by noise and distracted by the ephemeral, it is vital to rediscover the value of silence," he says.

In a word, the Pope says that "the pedagogy of the Church must 'dare' to present lofty objectives as, for example, the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours."