Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith on the Liturgy and its Abuses

MARCH 2015


Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith on the Liturgy and its Abuses


Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don is a Sri Lankan cardinal of the Catholic Church. He is the ninth and current Archbishop of Colombo, serving since 2009. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2010. He previously served as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (2001–2004), and Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2005–2009).


He has described the liturgical reforms inspired by the Second Vatican Council as “a mixed bag of results.” While praising the use of vernacular languages, he also criticized the “quasi total abandonment” of Latin and the “acceptance of all kinds of ‘novelties’ resulting from a secularizing and humanistic theological and liturgical mindset overtaking the West.” He has also lamented the “banalization and obscuring of the mystical and sacred aspects of the liturgy in many areas of the Church in the name of a so-called Konzilsgeist (spirit of the Council).”

Ranjith opposes the reception of Communion in the hand and standing, once saying, “I think it is high time to…abandon the current practice that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by Fathers, but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries.” A staunch supporter of the Tridentine Mass, Ranjith once said that bishops who opposed Summorum Pontificum
were allowing themselves to be “used as instruments of the devil,” accusing them of “disobedience…and even rebellion against the Pope.” He once said, “I’m not a fan of the 
Lefebvrians …but what they sometimes say about the liturgy they say for good reason.”



Ranjith: regarding “timing and nature of the Motu Proprio, nothing yet is known”

See also

From an “Inside the Vatican” interview with the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Albert Ranjith, with theologian Anthony Valle (during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, February 21, 2007 (bold emphases mine –Michael)


ANTHONY VALLE: Your Excellency, you have been generous in giving several interviews to the international press regarding liturgy since becoming the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Some of your statements have been misinterpreted and aroused controversy rather than providing the intended clarity. Would you care to clarify anything?

ARCHBISHOP MALCOM RANJITH: What I wished to insist on in those interviews was that the post-conciliar reform of the liturgy has not been able to achieve the expected goals of spiritual and missionary renewal in the Church so that today we could be truly happy about it.
Undoubtedly there have been positive results too; but the negative effects seem to have been greater, causing much disorientation in our ranks.
The churches have become empty, liturgical free-wheeling has become the order of the day, and the true meaning and significance of that which is celebrated has been obscured.
One has to, then, begin wondering if the reform process had in fact been handled correctly. Thus, we need to take a good look at what had happened, pray and reflect about its causes and with the help of the Lord move on to make the necessary corrections.

VALLE: It seems as if Pope Benedict XVI will release a motu proprio to liberalize the use of the traditional or Tridentine Mass. Some hope that the Pope’s motu proprio will institute a juridical structure enabling priests to celebrate the traditional Mass without being unjustly harassed and persistently thwarted by, ironically, not people of other faiths or secular authorities, but by their own pastors and bishops. Is this hope for a new juridical apparatus realistic? Is such an apparatus necessary?


RANJITH: Well, there is this rising call for a restoration of the Tridentine Mass. And even certain leading figures of the elite have made public appeals for this Mass in some newspapers recently.
The Holy Father will, I am sure, take note of this and decide what is best for the Church.
You speak of the possible realization of new juridical structures for the implementation of such decisions. I do not think that this would be so much of a problem. Rather what is more important in all of this is a pastoral attitude.
Will the bishops and priests reject requests for the Tridentine Mass and so create a need for juridical structures to ensure the enforcement of a decision of the Pope? Should it go that way?
I sincerely do not hope so.
The appropriate question the shepherds have to ask themselves is: How can I as a bishop or priest bring even one person closer to Christ and to His Church?
It is not so much a matter of the Tridentine Mass or of the Novus Ordo. It is just a question of pastoral responsibility and sensitivity. Thus, if the Tridentine Mass is the way to achieve an even better level of spiritual enrichment for the faithful, then the shepherds should allow it.
The important concern is not so much the “what” as much as the “how.” The Church should always seek to help our faithful to come closer to the Lord, to feel challenged by His message and to respond to His call generously. And if that can be achieved through the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass or the Pius V Mass, well, then space should be provided for whatever is best instead of getting down to unnecessary and divisive theological hair-splitting. Such things need to be decided through the heart and not so much through the head.
After all, Pope John Paul II did make a personal appeal in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta of 1988 to the bishops, calling upon them to be generous in this matter with those who wish to celebrate or participate in the Tridentine Mass. Besides, we should remember that the Tridentine Mass is not something that belongs to the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre only. It is part of our own heritage as members of the Catholic Church.
The Second Vatican Council, as Pope Benedict so clearly stated in his speech to the members of the Curia in December 2005, did not envisage a totally new beginning, but one of continuity with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and a new outlook that better responds to the missionary needs of the time.
Besides, we also have the serious question of the diminishing number of faithful in some of the churches in the Western world. We have to ask ourselves what happened in these churches and then take corrective steps as may be necessary. I do not think that this situation is attributable to secularization only. A deep crisis of faith coupled with a drive for meaningless liturgical experimentation and novelty have had their own impact in this matter. There is much formalism and insipidity visible at times.
Thus, we need to recover a true sense of the sacred and mystical in worship.
And if the faithful feel that the Tridentine Mass offers them that sense of the sacred and mystical more than anything else, then we should have the courage to accept their request.
With regard to the timing and nature of the motu proprio, nothing yet is known. It is the Holy Father who will decide.
And when he does, we should in all obedience accept what he indicates to us and with a genuine love for the Church strive to help him. Any counter attitude would only harm the spiritual mission of the Church and thwart the Lord’s own will.

Like many Catholics today, my wife and I have found that we leave the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass on Sunday exasperated and perplexed rather than spiritually invigorated. Why?

RANJITH: In the celebration of the Novus Ordo we have to be very serious about what we do on the altar. I cannot be a priest who dreams in his sleep about what I will do at the Mass the following day, walk up to the altar and start celebrating with all kinds of novel self-created rubrics and actions.
The Holy Eucharist belongs to the Church. Hence, it has a meaning of its own which cannot be left to the idiosyncrasies of the single celebrant.
Every element in the liturgy of the Church has its own long history of development and significance. It is certainly not a matter of private “traditions” and so cannot be the object of manipulation by all and sundry.
In fact, Sacrosanctum Concilium does state that other than the Apostolic See and the bishops, where this is allowed to the latter by the former, “absolutely no other person, not even a priest, may add or remove or change anything on his own authority” (SC 22). Even then, we note much free-wheeling in liturgical matters in some areas of the Church today, basically due to an incorrect understanding of liturgical theology.
For example, the mystery of the Holy Eucharist has often been misunderstood or partially understood, leaving thus the door open to all kinds of liturgical abuses.
In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, some place too much accent on the presidential role of the priest. But we know that the priest is really not the main agent of what happens on the altar. It is Jesus Himself.
Besides, every liturgical celebration has also a heavenly dimension “which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem towards which we journey as pilgrims” (SC 8).
Others explain the Eucharist in a way that places the accent on its banquet/meal dimension, linking it to “communion.” This too is an important consideration, but we should remember that it is not so much a communion created by those taking part in the Eucharist as much as by the Lord Himself.



Through the Eucharist, the Lord assumes us unto Himself and in Him we are placed in communion with all the others who unite themselves to Him. It is thus not so much a sociological experience as much as a mystical one. Hence even as “communion” the Eucharist is a heavenly experience.
What is more important is the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist we relive the sacrifice of Calvary, celebrating it as the moment of our salvation.
And this very fact also constitutes the unique dignity and font of identity of the priest. He has been instituted by Christ to celebrate the wonderful mystery of turning this corruptible piece of bread into the very glorified Body of Christ and this little bit of wine into the Blood of Christ, enacting the sacrifice of Calvary for the salvation of the world. And this has to be lived, understood and believed by the priest each time he celebrates the Eucharist.
Indeed, Sacrosanctum Concilium placed accent on the sacrificial and salvific effectivity of the Mass. The priest thus becomes another Christ, so to say. What a great vocation! And so, if we celebrate the Eucharist devoutly, then the faithful will reap immense spiritual benefit and return again and again in search of that heavenly nourishment.

VALLE: Some have contended that the solution to the liturgical crisis — and at bottom the crisis of faith — afflicting the Catholic Church today would be to implement the exclusive use of the Tridentine Mass, while others maintain that all we really need is a “reform of the reform,” in other words, a reform of the Novus Ordo. What do you think?

RANJITH: An “either-or” attitude would unnecessarily polarize the Church, whereas charity and pastoral concern should be the motivating factors. If the Holy Father so desires, both could co-exist.
That would not mean that we would have to give up the Novus Ordo. But in the interaction of the two Roman traditions, it is possible that the one may influence the other eventually. 
We can’t say everything is completed and finished, that nothing new could happen. In fact, Vatican II never advocated immediate change in the liturgy. Rather it preferred change to “grow organically from forms already existing” (SC 23). As Cardinal Antonelli, a much revered member of the Concilium that undertook the revision of the liturgy after the Council, noted in his diaries, some of the liturgical changes after the Council had been introduced without much reflection, haphazardly, and made later to become accepted practice.
For example, Communion in the hand had not been something that was first properly studied and reflected upon before its acceptance by the Holy See. It had been haphazardly introduced in some countries of Northern Europe and later become accepted practice, eventually spreading into many other places. Now that is a situation that should have been avoided. The Second Vatican Council never advocated such an approach to liturgical reform.

VALLE: Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi (“The law of praying (is) the law of believing, (is) the law of living”). Is it true that how we worship and pray influences what we believe, and that what we believe influences how we live? In other words, liturgy ultimately influences our moral life, does it not?

RANJITH: Yes. How can we convince the faithful to make sacrifices in their ethical and moral options, unless they are first touched and inspired by the grace of God profoundly? And such happens especially in worship when the human soul is made to experience the salvific grace of God most intimately. In worship, faith becomes interiorized and brims over with inspiration and strength, enabling one to take the moral options that are in consonance with that faith. In the liturgy, we should experience the closeness of God to our heart so intensely that we in turn begin to believe fervently and are compelled to act justly. 

What are some contemporary liturgical trends or problems that need correction?

RANJITH: One of these, as I see, is the trend to go for ecumenical liturgies in replacement of the Sunday Mass in some countries, during which Catholic lay leaders and Protestant ministers celebrate together and the latter are invited to preach the homily. Sunday Liturgies of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion, which form is allowed in cases where a priest cannot be present, if turned into ecumenical events can give the faithful the wrong signal. They may get used to the idea of the Sunday without the Eucharist.
The Eucharist, as you know, makes the Church (Ed E. 21) and this is central to us Catholics. If it is so easily replaced by Liturgies of the Word, or worse still by so-called ecumenical prayer services, the very identity of the Catholic Church would be in question. Unfortunately, we hear also of cases whereby the Eucharist itself is being celebrated under various guises along with the Protestant pastors. This is totally unacceptable and constitutes a graviora delicta (“more grave offense”) (RM 172).
Ecumenism is not something left to the ad hoc choice of individual priests. True ecumenism, such as the one espoused by Vatican II, comes from the heart of the Church. For example, the path to true ecumenism begins with serious reflection on the part of those who are deemed competent to engage in that type of reflection, such as the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Holy Father himself. Not everyone has the competence to know in what way this delicate search for unity is to be perceived. It needs much reflection and prayer. Hence, liturgical novelty in the name of ecumenism should not be tried out individually.


A second disturbing trend is the gradual replacement of the Mass celebrated by a priest with a paraliturgical service conducted by a lay person. This of course can legitimately happen when no priest is available and facilities for the fulfillment of Sunday obligation are scarce. However, this is an exception, not the rule. What is dangerous is to marginalize the priest even when he is available and some lay pastoral leader team arrogates to itself tasks that are reserved for the priests. I mean by this the trend to get the lay leader to preach the homily instead of the priest, even when he is present, or to distribute Holy Communion, leaving the priest to sit idle at the altar. 
We have to stress here that, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood “differ from one another in essence and not only in degree” (LG 10). And so it is gravely abusive to relegate to the laity the sacred obligations reserved to the priest.
What is unfortunate is the increasing tendency worldwide to laicize the priest and to clericalize the laity. This too is contra mentem (“against the mind” or “against the intention”) of the Council.
There is also an increasing trend to shift the Sunday Mass to Saturdays almost as a “normal” practice. Rather than Sunday being the true day of the Lord, and so a day of spiritual and physical rest, there is a move to reduce its importance, making it become a day of worldly distractions. In Dies Domini, Pope John Paul II warned against this disturbing trend.

A final point I wish to make here concerns some practices introduced in mission territories, for example, in Asia, in the name of change, which are counter to its cultural heritage.
In some Asian countries we see a trend to introduce Communion in the hand which is received standing.

This is not at all consonant with Asian culture. The Buddhists worship prostrate on the floor with their forehead touching the ground. Moslems take off their shoes and wash their feet before entering the mosque for worship. The Hindus enter the temple bare-chested as a sign of submission. When people approach the king of Thailand or the emperor of Japan, they do so on their knees as a sign of respect. But in many Asian countries the Church has introduced practices like just a simple bow to the Blessed Sacrament instead of kneeling, standing while receiving Holy Communion, and receiving Communion on the hand. And we know that these cannot be considered practices congruent with Asian culture. 

Besides, the laity whose role today is being enhanced in the Church are not even consulted when such decisions are made.
All these situations do not augur well for the Church and we need to correct these trends
, if the Eucharist we celebrate is to become, as St. Ignatius of Antioch affirmed, “medicine of immortality and antidote against death” (Ef. 20, 2, SC 10, 77).
Mr. Anthony Valle
is a theologian and writer who lives in Rome.


It’s The Lord – Communion in the Hand

Quotes of Interest

Pope Benedict XVI, recalling the words of Saint Augustine: “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”

Speaking of Communion-in-the-hand, it is necessary for all to recognize that the practice was introduced as an abuse, and hurriedly, in many places within the Church right after the Council. This practice contributes to a gradual, growing weakening of the attitude of reverence toward the Sacred Eucharistic Species.

An alarming lack of recollection and an overall spirit of carelessness have entered into liturgical celebrations.

Now, more than ever, it is necessary to help the faithful renew a living faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic Species in order to strengthen the life of the Church herself and to defend her in the midst of the dangerous distortions of the faith, which such a situation continues to cause.

+Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments


Communion in the hand quotations

Albert Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, November 2007

I mention, for example, a change not proposed by the Council Fathers or by the Sacrosanctum Concilium, Holy Communion received in the hand. This has contributed to some extent to a weakening of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This, and the removal of altar rails and kneelers in church and the introduction of practices which oblige the faithful to sit or stand at the elevation of the Sacred Host, weakens the genuine significance of the Eucharist and the Church’s profound sense of adoration for the Lord, the Only Son of God.


Ranjith on Kneeling for Communion during the liturgy and Communion on the Tongue

By Shawn Tribe, January 27, 2008



Libreria Editrice Vaticana has published a book, Dominus Est by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, where that Bishop analyzes the question of communion received kneeling and on the tongue.
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith has written the foreword to this book, which the New Liturgical Movement is happy to present an unofficial translation here to follow. (Many thanks to a good friend of the NLM for providing the link to this, which came originally through, Associazione Luci sull’Est.)
Without further ado, the foreword of Msgr. Ranjith, Secretary to the CDW:
In the Book of Revelation, St. John tells how he had seen and heard what was revealed and prostrated [himself] in adoration at the foot of the angel of God (cf. Revelation 22, 8). Prostrating, or getting down one one’s knees before the majesty of the presence of God in humble adoration, was a habit of reverence that Israel brought constantly to the presence of the Lord. It says the first book of Kings, “when Solomon had finished putting this prayer to the Lord and this plea, he stood up before the altar of the Lord, where he was kneeling, with palms stretched heavenward, and blessed the whole assembly of Israel” (1 Kings 8, 54-55). The position of supplication of the King is clear: He was kneeling in front of the altar.
The same tradition is also visible in the New Testament where we see Peter get on his knees before Jesus (cf. Lukw 5, 8); when Jairus asked him to heal her daughter (Luke 8, 41), when the Samaritan returned to thank him, and when Mary the sister of Lazarus asked for the life of her brother (John 11, 32). The same attitude of prostration before the revelation of the divine presence and is generally known in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 5, 8, 14 and 19, 4).
Closely linked to this tradition was the conviction that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was the dwelling place of God and therefore, in the temple it was necessary to prepare one’s disposition by corporal expression, a deep sense of humility and reverence in the presence of the Lord.
Even in the Church, the deep conviction that in the Eucharistic species the Lord is truly and really present, along with the growing practice of preserving the Holy Sacrament in tabernacles, contributed to practice of kneeling in an attitude of humble adoration of the Lord in the Eucharist. […]

…faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species already belonged to the essence of the faith of the Catholic Church and was an intrinsic part of Catholicism. It was clear that we could not build up the Church if that faith was minimally affected.
Therefore, the Eucharist, bread transubstantiated in Body of Christ and wine into the Blood of Christ, God among us, is to be greeted with wonder, reverence and an immense attitude of humble adoration. Pope Benedict XVI… points out that “receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive […] only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature.”(Sacramentum Caritatis 66).

Following this tradition, it is clear that it became coherent and indispensable to take actions and attitudes of the body and spirit which makes it easier to [enter into] silence, recollection, and the humble acceptance of our poverty in the face of the infinite greatness and holiness of the One who comes to meet us in the Eucharistic species. The best way to express our sense of reverence to the Lord in Mass is to follow the example of Peter, who as the Gospel tells us, threw himself on his knees before the Lord and said, ‘Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinner’ (Luke 5, 8).
As we see in some churches now, this practice is decreasing and those responsible not only require that the faithful should receive the Holy Eucharist standing, but even eliminate all kneelers forcing the faithful to sit or stand, even during the elevation and adoration of the [Sacred] Species. It is ironic that such measures have been taken in [some] dioceses by those responsible for liturgy, or in churches, by pastors, without even the smallest amount of consultation of the faithful, even though today, more than ever, there is an environment desiring democracy in the Church.
At the same time, speaking of communion in the hand, it must be recognized that the practice was improperly and quickly introduced in some quarters of the Church shortly after the Council, changing the age-old practice and becoming regular practice for the whole Church. They justified the change saying that it better reflected the Gospel or the ancient practice of the Church… Some, to justify this practice referred to the words of Jesus: “Take and eat” (Mark 14, 22; Matthew 26, 26).
Whatever the reasons for this practice, we cannot ignore what is happening worldwide where this practice has been implemented. This gesture has contributed to a gradual weakening of the attitude of reverence towards the sacred Eucharistic species whereas the previous practice had better safeguarded that sense of reverence.
There instead arose an alarming lack of recollection and a general spirit of carelessness. We see communicants who often return to their seats as if nothing extraordinary has happened… In many cases, one cannot discern that sense of seriousness and inner silence that must signal the presence of God in the soul.
Then there are those who take away the sacred species to keep them as souvenirs, those who sell, or worse yet, who take them away to desecrate it in Satanic rituals. Even in large concelebrations, also in Rome, several times the sacred species has been found thrown onto the ground.
This situation not only leads us to reflect upon a serious loss of faith, but also on outrageous offenses…
The Pope speaks of the need not only to understand the true and deep meaning of the Eucharist, but also to celebrate it with dignity and reverence. He says that we must be aware of “gestures and posture, such as kneeling during the central moments of the Eucharistic Prayer.” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 65). Also, speaking about the reception of the Holy Communion he invites everyone to “make every effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament.” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 50).



In this vein, the book written by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan entitled Dominus Est is significant and appreciated. He wants to make a contribution to the current debate on the real and substantial presence of Christ in the consecrated species of bread and wine… from his experience, which aroused in him a deep faith, wonder and devotion to the Lord present in the Eucharist, he presents us with a historical-theological [consideration] clarifying how the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling has been accepted and practiced in the Church for a long period of time.
Now I think it is high time to review and re-evaluate such good practices and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by Fathers, but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries. Now, more than ever, we must help the faithful to renew a deep faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in order to strengthen the life of the Church and defend it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith that this situation continues to cause.
The reasons for this move must be not so much academic but pastoral – spiritual as well as liturgical – in short, what builds better faith. Mons. Msgr. Schneider in this sense shows a commendable courage because he has been able to grasp the true meaning of the words of St. Paul: “but everything should be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14, 26).

+Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship


Vatican official: Church should reconsider Communion in the hand

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, January 31, 2008

VATICAN CITY (CNS) The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said he thinks it is time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand.

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the Vatican official, made the suggestion in the preface to a book about the Eucharist by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

Bishop Schneider’s book, “Dominus Est: Reflections of a Bishop from Central Asia on Holy Communion,” was published in Italian in late January by the Vatican Publishing House, though some of it had been released earlier in the Vatican newspaper.

In the newly released preface to the book, Archbishop Ranjith wrote, “The Eucharist, bread transubstantiated into the body of Christ and wine into the blood of Christ — God in our midst — must be received with awe and an attitude of humble adoration.”

The archbishop said the Second Vatican Council never authorized the practice of Catholics receiving Communion in the hand, a practice that was “introduced abusively and hurriedly in some spheres” and only later authorized by the Vatican.

The liturgists, theologians and pastors who encouraged the change said it better reflected the ancient practice of the church and the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, he said.

“It is true that if one can receive on the tongue, one also can receive in the hand because this organ of the body has equal dignity,” he said.

However, Archbishop Ranjith said, the introduction of the practice of receiving Communion in the hand coincides with the beginning of “a gradual and growing weakening of the attitude of reverence toward the sacred eucharistic species.”

“I think the time has come to evaluate these practices and to review them and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice,” Archbishop Ranjith said.

“Now more than ever, it is necessary to help the faithful renew a lively faith in the real presence of Christ in the eucharistic species with the aim of reinforcing the very life of the church and defending it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith,” the archbishop wrote.

The bulk of Bishop Schneider’s book was published in early January in the Vatican newspaper; he said that if a Catholic truly believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, he or she should kneel in adoration and reverence when receiving Communion.

The article in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, appeared under the headline, “Like a nursing child in the arms of the one who nourishes him” and included the bishop’s opinion that just as a baby opens his mouth to receive nourishment from his mother, so should Catholics open their mouths to receive nourishment from Jesus.


Vatican official suggests reconsidering Communion in the hand

Vatican, February 1, 2008 (

The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship has called for reconsideration of the practice of Communion in the hand. In the preface to a new Italian-language book on the Eucharist, written by a bishop from Kazakhstan and released in January by the Vatican’s official publishing house, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don suggests that the reception of Communion in the hand has contributed to a general sense of “carelessness” about the Eucharist, as well as some flagrant abuses. The archbishop makes his remarks in the preface to Dominus Est, by Bishop Athanasius Schneider.
The practice of receiving Communion in the hand was not mandated by Vatican II, nor was it introduced in response to calls from the laity, Archbishop Ranjith writes. Instead, he argues, an established practice of piety — receiving the Eucharist kneeling, on the tongue — was changed “improperly and hurriedly,” and became widespread even before it was formally approved by the Vatican.




In light of a widespread lack of reverence for the Eucharist, the archbishop suggests that it is “high time to review” the policy. While he does not condemn the practice of Communion in the hand, the Vatican official praises Bishop Schneider for arguing in favor of the older practice, saying that it helps to foster a proper sense of reverence and piety.


Vatican official calls for communion practice review

February 4, 2008

A senior Vatican official believes the Church should reconsider allowing faithful to receive communion in the hand. Catholic News Service reports the Congregation of Divine Worship secretary Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don made the suggestion in the preface to a book about the Eucharist by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan.

Archbishop Ranjith said Vatican II never authorised the practice or receiving the Eucharist by hand, but was “introduced abusively and hurriedly in some spheres” and only later allowed by the Vatican.
He says receiving communion by hand coincides with a “gradual and growing weakening of the attitude of reverence toward the sacred eucharistic species.”
In the newly released preface to the book, Archbishop Ranjith wrote that the “Eucharist, bread transubstantiated into the body of Christ and wine into the blood of Christ – God in our midst – must be received with awe and an attitude of humble adoration.” The liturgists, theologians and pastors who encouraged the change said it better reflected the ancient practice of the Church and the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper.
SOURCE Vatican official: Church should reconsider Communion in the hand (Catholic News Service 01/02/08)


Archbishop Ranjith: “Communion in the hand needs to be revisited”

By Gregor Kollmorge, February 21, 2008

Bruno Volpe, of Petrus, has interviewed Msgr. Albert Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Here is my translation:

Volpe: Your Excellency, unfortunately Holy Mass, in Italy and in various other parts of the World, continues not to be celebrated as it should be, with priests putting themselves at the centre of attention and inventing impromptu texts and rites that are absolutely not loyal to the Magisterium.

Msgr. Ranjith: It is true, and I think it is really sad that some priests, fortunately not all, continue to abuse, with inexplicable extravagancies, the liturgy which, it should be remembered, is not their property but belongs to the Church.

Volpe: Would you like to make a public appeal?

I remind these priests that they must, and I stress must, respect the official liturgy of the Catholic Church. Enough with the abuses and the personal interpretations: Mass is not a spectacle, but sacrifice, gift and mystery. Not coincidentally the Holy Father Benedict XVI continually reminds us to celebrate the Eucharist with dignity and decorum.

Volpe: We come to a practical case. Some priests indulge in homilies excessively long and not always attuned to the readings of the day.

Ranjith: First of all I think that a good and healthy homily should never exceed 8-10 minutes; having said that it is necessary that the celebrant studies in depth the Gospel of the day and always stick to it, without flourishes or unnecessary turns of words. The homily is an integral and complementary part of the Eucharistic sacrifice, but must absolutely not dominate it.

Volpe: Your Excellency, let us come to the question of Communion in the hand: What do you think about it?

Ranjith: I ‘simply’ believe that this practice needs to be reviewed. How to do it? To begin with, a good catechesis. You know, unfortunately, many are not even aware of Whom they receive in the Communion, that is Christ, and so approach the Eucharistic banquet with scarce concentration and very little respect.

Volpe: Specifically, what needs to be done?

Ranjith: We need to recover the sense of the sacred. I speak only for myself, but I am convinced of the urgency of reviewing the practice of Communion given in the hand, returning to giving the particle to the faithful directly in the mouth, without them touching it, reinforcing thereby that in the Eucharist there is really Jesus and that everyone must receive Him with devotion, love and respect.

Volpe: Would it not be appropriate to return to kneeling at the moment of Communion?

I think so. This gesture would represent a true act of respect towards the gift and the mystery of the Eucharist.

Volpe: But some, even inside the Church, seem to express “embarrassment” only at the idea of seeing restored kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.

Ranjith: Beyond the office I occupy in the Vatican, as a Catholic I ask myself and wonder: why be ashamed of God? Kneeling at Communion would be an act of humility and recognition of our nature as children of God.


Vatican to outlaw Communion in the hand?

By John Vennari, February 25, 2008 –Traditionalist



A controversy has arisen even since I first posted this story this morning.
The Turin-based La Stampa reported that the Vatican is poised to introduce stricter norms on Roman Catholic Masses, including halting the abuse of Communion in the hand and setting a time limit for homilies. The February 25 La Stampa quoted Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship, saying the move was necessary to eliminate “extravagancies” that have crept into Mass celebrations.
Two points mentioned by La Stampa were norms that Sunday sermons should be no more than 10-minutes in length, and a ruling that outlaws Communion in the hand.
But according to Father John Zuhlsdorf’s webpage “What Does the Prayer Really Say”, Archbishop Ranjith denies the story, saying there will be no new pronouncements on the matter of the celebration of the Mass
Fr. Zuhlsdorf quotes Vatican Radio:

“The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Abp. Malcolm Ranjith, has denied
today what is contained in an article published with today’s date on the daily La Stampa.
“The article mentions a supposed ‘turning point in the Vatican against – it is written – the ‘extravagances’ in Mass and to review some recent practices such as communion in the hand.”
“Abp. Ranjith notices that there is in the article a collage of sentences pronounced by him in different contexts which have given rise to out-of-place construction.”

The distribution of Communion on the hand has been widespread since Vatican II. The practice came about by ecumenically-minded priests distributing Communion according to the Protestant method.
Yet Protestants introduced Communion in the hand in the 16th Century to manifest their rejection of belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; to emphasize the fact that the bread used in their services is simply ordinary bread that can be handled by anyone; and to manifest their rejection of the sacramental priesthood.

Recently, Archbishop Ranjith wrote an Introduction to a book entitled Dominus Est in which the author, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, analyses the question of kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue.
Archbishop Ranjith opens his introduction noting that all throughout Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New, kneeling is the proper attitude of those in the presence of Divinity. He gives examples of Solomon, St. Peter and St. John the Evangelist in the Apocalypse.

Ranjith then makes the direct application: “Even in the Church, the deep conviction that in the Eucharistic species the Lord is truly and really present, along with the growing practice of preserving the Holy Sacrament in tabernacles, contributed to practice of kneeling in an attitude of humble adoration of the Lord in the Eucharist.”
He then addresses the modern abuse of Communion in the hand. He writes, “…speaking of Communion in the hand, it must be recognized that the practice was improperly and quickly introduced in some quarters of the Church shortly after the Council, changing the age-old practice and becoming regular practice for the whole Church.”
“Whatever the reasons for this practice,” he says, “we cannot ignore what is happening worldwide where this practice has been implemented. This gesture has contributed to a gradual weakening of the attitude of reverence towards the sacred Eucharistic species whereas the previous practice had better safeguarded that sense of reverence. There instead arose an alarming lack of recollection and a general spirit of carelessness. We see communicants who often return to their seats as if nothing extraordinary has happened… In many cases, one cannot discern that sense of seriousness and inner silence that must signal the presence of God in the soul.”
Archbishop Ranjith commends Bishop Schneider for focusing on a historical-theological consideration “clarifying how the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling has been accepted and practiced in the Church for a long period of time.”
Ranjith concludes: “Now I think it is high time to review and re-evaluate such good practices and, if necessary, to abandon the current practice [of Communion in the hand] that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by Fathers [of Vatican II], but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries. Now, more than ever, we must help the faithful to renew a deep faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in order to strengthen the life of the Church and defend it in the midst of dangerous distortions of the faith that this situation continues to cause.”

Whatever the truth of the matter regarding any possible upcoming Vatican instruction, we should continue to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the elimination of this abuse.
Let us further pray that the Vatican soon eliminate the most widespread abuse of all – the Novus Ordo Mass itself; an ecumenical liturgy written with the help of six Protestant ministers that Cardinal Ottaviani warned “represents in its whole and in its details a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as codified by Session XXII of the Council of Trent”. 


Confusion surrounds stricter rules for Mass

February 26, 2008

Stricter rules for Mass including disallowing taking Communion in the hand and time limits on homilies may soon be initiated by the Vatican.

DPA reports that Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don was quoted in Italian newspaper La Stampa saying that the moves were necessary to eliminate “extravagancies”.
Provisions include restricting to 10 minutes homilies and ensuring they be exclusively based on the Gospel readings.




Archbishop Ranjith was also quoted as saying the practice of allowing the faithful to receive Communion in their hands would be “urgently reviewed”. “The Vatican wants the host placed directly into the mouths of the faithful so they don’t touch it (with their hands) because many don’t even realize they are receiving Christ and do this with scant concentration and respect,” Archbishop Ranjith said.
The distribution of communion on the hands has been widespread since Vatican II.
However, Ranjith said the practice was “illegally and hastily introduced by certain elements of the Church immediately after the Council”. “Some people keep hosts with them as a sort of souvenir, others sell them while in some cases the hosts have been taken away to be used in blasphemous Satanic rituals,” he said. Ranjith said the measures to bring back “dignity and decorum” to Mass celebrations were in line with Pope Benedict’s wishes.

Since the release of the article on Monday, Archbishop Ranjith denied the report by La Stampa saying on Vatican Radio that no new Mass regulations were envisaged. “The article published on Monday by Turin daily La Stampa contained a collage of phrases citing him (Ranjith) that led to conclusions which were out of place,” a Vatican Radio broadcaster said. Archbishop Ranjith has now denied any plans are afoot, saying instead on Vatican Radio “the hope is that the existing norms will be regularly applied and that the Eucharist be celebrated with devotion, seriousness and nobility.”
Source Vatican to ‘review’ taking of Communion in the hand (Earth Times 25/02/08)

Vatican official denies report on communion in the hand
(Earth Times 25/02/08)


No new communion kneeling norms

May 26, 2008

Key Vatican officials have dismissed suggestions of an impending change to the practice of receiving Communion while standing despite four dozen people receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling from Pope Benedict on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Catholic News Service reports Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don says “there are no new norms coming” that would change the Vatican’s 1969 decision that local bishops could allow their faithful to receive the Eucharist in their hands while standing.

He also says “there is no discussion” about insisting those who receive Communion from the Pope do so kneeling or that they receive it on the tongue rather than in their hands.

“But the gesture of the Holy Father is to be appreciated. It brings out in a better way the fact we adore the Lord whom we receive” in the Eucharist, Archbishop Ranjith said. “It was a special occasion and I hope this practice spreads.”

As the Pope prepared to distribute Communion, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar on the St John Lateran basilica steps and the chosen communicants, lay people, nuns, seminarians, priests and children, all knelt and received on the tongue. Generally at papal Masses those receiving Communion from the Pope stand and the majority choose to receive on the tongue.

In a preface to a January book about the beauty of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling, Archbishop Ranjith had said he thought it was time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand. Master of Papal Liturgical Ceremonies Monsignor Guido Marini says the decision “was a solution adopted for the feast of Corpus Domini”, but as for the future, “we’ll see.”

Source: Vatican: Receiving Eucharist kneeling may not be permanent change, Catholic News Service, 25/5/08


Holy Communion in the Hand?

By Paul Kokoski

In this essay Paul Kokoski discusses claims brought forth by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, that the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand — rather than kneeling and on the tongue — has led to indifference, disbelief, and sacrilegious behavior toward our Lord in the Eucharist.

Father Regis Scanlon, who is spiritual director for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, has said that “the doctrine of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is one of those wonderful truths by which Christianity shines forth as a religion of mysteries far exceeding the capacity of the human mind. The Catholic Church has defined the dogma of the real presence by stating that Jesus Christ is present whole and entire under the appearances of bread and wine following the words of consecration at the Eucharist.”1

The reception of Holy Communion at Mass has always been a moment of tremendous reverence and awe, traditionally preceded by the ringing of the bells, burning of incense and observation of silence.

Sadly there are many Catholics who no longer believe in the real presence. No doubt this has been due to the toning down, and in some cases the deletion, of these and many other symbols and signs of adoration. One such sign of adoration that has been drastically toned down is the practice of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.

This has led Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, to recently suggest the policy of giving Communion in the hand be revised or “abandoned altogether.”2





It is Archbishop Ranjith’s belief that the introduction of this practice after Vatican II has resulted in indifference, outrages and sacrileges toward our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, causing great harm to both the Catholic Church and to individual souls.

In the preface to a new book by Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, Dominus Est: Meditations of a Bishop from Central Asia on the Sacred Eucharist, Archbishop Ranjith notes that the practice of receiving Communion in the hand was not mandated by Vatican II, nor was it introduced in response to calls from the laity. Instead, he argues, the established practice of piety — receiving the Eucharist kneeling, on the tongue — was changed “improperly and hurriedly,” and became widespread even before it was formally approved by the Vatican.3 In this essay I will briefly discuss Archbishop Ranjith’s claims from the perspective and situation of the Catholic Church in Canada — which I suspect is essentially the same or very similar to the situation in the U.S. and in other countries where Communion in the hand was adopted.

The practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand first began to spread in Catholic circles during the early 1960s, primarily in Holland. Shortly after Vatican II, due to the escalating abuses in certain non-English speaking countries (Holland, Belgium, France and Germany), Pope Paul VI took a survey of the world’s bishops to ascertain their opinions on the subject. On May 28, 1969 the Congregation for Divine Worship issued Memoriale Domini, which concluded: “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful.”4
After he had considered the observation and the counsel of the bishops, the Supreme Pontiff judged that the long-received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the faithful should not be changed. The Apostolic See then strongly urged bishops, priests and the laity to zealously observe this law out of concern for the common good of the Church.

Despite this statement of the Holy See, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) decided at its Plenary Assembly of November 1969 to submit a formal request to the Holy Father for permission to distribute Holy Communion in the hand. The CCCB informed its members that “the growing participation in the Eucharist, especially by sacramental communion, has created within man the desire to see re-established the venerable custom of receiving the Eucharistic Bread in their hands.”5 The CCCB further advised its members that “the Pope thought it better not to change the [old] discipline for all the Church, but, rather, to study on an individual basis the requests submitted to him by national conferences of bishops.”6 What Pope Paul VI actually said in Memoriale Domini, however, was “if the contrary usage, namely, of placing Holy Communion in the hand, has already developed in any place [it had not, at that point, in Canada] … the Holy See will weigh the individual cases with care.”7

Permission for Communion in the hand was eventually granted to the Canadian bishops on several strict conditions, including that “the new manner of giving Communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice.”8 The Canadian bishops nonetheless advised its instructors of the new practice to provide the faithful with only the “good reasons which justify the introduction of the new rite.”9 While not explicitly forbidden Communion on the tongue, the faithful — especially first communicants and converts — were “encouraged to receive the Eucharistic Bread on the flat palm of the hand.”10

This movement toward adopting a new, single policy was reinforced by the removal of the Communion rail, which is compatible with receiving Communion on the tongue. For those not familiar with the Communion or altar rail, it is an architectural feature, usually made of marble or some other precious material that separates the sanctuary from the body of the church. A clean white cloth of fine linen, which was usually fastened on the sanctuary side of the rail, would be extended over the length of the rail before those who receive Holy Communion to act as a sort of corporal to receive any particles that may by chance fall from the hands of the priest. The communicant would kneel, take the cloth in both hands and hold it under his chin.

Once the faithful were effectively forced to stand for Holy Communion11” and the practice of receiving in the hand became the norm, lay people were then invited to come up to the altar and distribute Holy Communion. Eventually and unfortunately this practice also became normalized.

One of the major arguments given for supporting the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand was that it “emphasizes an active personal involvement, one of the goals of liturgical renewal.”12 If, however, this was one of our bishops’ primary motivations behind their quest for legitimate renewal, one has to wonder why the most solemn act of kneeling at the moment of Holy Communion was considered expendable when for centuries it was employed because of its immeasurable benefit of predisposing one to holiness.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has noted that kneeling is “an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.”13 He reminds us that “the word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own liturgy.”14

In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, the Pope speaks of a “story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frightening thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical.”15

Ironically, while the practice of kneeling is widely accepted in secular circles such as those instances when one is in the presence of state royalty or some other important dignitary, our Catholic bishops make no such stipulation when one is in the presence of God himself in the Blessed Sacrament.




Though modern liturgical theorists, designers and consultants tout the newer practice, which opposes the Communion rail and its conduciveness to receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, there has been no ecclesiastical document that has come out against the Communion rail or one that sanctions its removal from churches.

St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us, with respect to Communion in the hand, that reverence demands that only what has been consecrated should touch the Blessed Sacrament. He writes:

The dispensing of Christ’s body belongs to the priest for three reasons. First, because . . . he consecrates in the person of Christ . . . Secondly, because the priest is the appointed intermediary between God and the people, hence as it belongs to him to offer the people’s gifts to God, so it belongs to him to deliver the consecrated gifts to the people. Thirdly, because out of reverence toward this sacrament nothing touches it but what is consecrated, hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this sacrament. Hence it is not lawful for anyone else to touch it, except from necessity — for instance, if it were to fall upon the ground, or else in some other case of urgency.16

Any emergency justifies that the privilege be extended to a lay person because emergencies do not imply a lack of respect for the holy body of Christ. This aside, there is no reason for receiving Communion in the hand; only an immanent spirit of paltry familiarity with our Lord.

In his apostolic letter Dominicae Cenae, Pope John Paul II also states: “How eloquent, therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary. To touch the sacred species, and to distribute them with their own hands, is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist.”17

During the reception of Holy Communion it is Jesus who transforms us into himself, and not we who transform him into our substance. The superior being is the one to assimilate the inferior. Is not Communion on the tongue (where one receives directly from the priest in persona Christi) more expressive of this theology and hence more reverent than Communion in the hand (where one takes and gives to oneself)? One of our esteemed high-ranking clergy rejected this latter argument that Communion in the hand is equivalent to “self-communicating.” He commented: “If I offer you something to eat, and you accept it in your hand, as is normal, then it is I who am giving and you who receive. Only if you were to help yourself to something in the kitchen, would you be ‘taking and giving to yourself.'”18 This may sound coherent but the various bishops and bishops’ conferences obviously believed otherwise when they made an appeal for the new practice on the grounds that it represented an “active personal involvement” of the laity. Implicit in this argument is the admission of there being an additional “active” step taken by the communicant during the transfer of the Sacred Host from the priest to the recipient — a step supporting the idea that Communion in the hand is a form of self-communicating. If this were not the case then there would have been no need to introduce it in the first place. In any event it would seem the introduction of this practice was unwarranted.

The “kitchen” example does, however, raise a new concern. That is exactly what happens when — during the Mass and after the consecration — a member of the laity opens the tabernacle, takes the Sacred Host and distributes it to the faithful. This practice, which is becoming more and more common, would not have been possible had it not been for the prior legitimization of the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand. This demonstrates how easily the practice of Communion in the hand can and in fact does open the door to all sorts of accidental and even intentional abuses.

Our bishops have argued that Communion in the hand is the proper way for the faithful to respond to our Lord’s invitation: “All of you, take and eat this.” What the bishops overlook is the fact that while our Lord did speak these words he issued them within the context of instituting the sacrament of holy orders. These words were addressed to the apostles and not to all Christians indiscriminately.

Arguments for Communion in the hand based upon the fact that this practice can be found among the early Christians are also not valid. Pope Pius XII spoke in very clear and unmistakable terms against the idea of re-introducing customs from the time of the catacombs. This is because customs of a previous era can assume completely new functions today. For example, many Protestants right up to the present time receive Communion in the hand as an implicit denial of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It is in this environment, culture and context, and not that of the early Church, that our Catholic bishops have adopted the practice. One calls to mind the longstanding principle of Catholic worship, “lex orandi, lex credendi” — let the law of prayer be governed by the law of belief. Catholics should worship in accordance with what they believe.

The practice of Communion in the hand has been detrimental to Christian unity ever since it was employed, causing divisions within the Church and confusion among those separated brethren who share with us an explicit and orthodox belief in the Holy Eucharist.

Despite the widespread practice of Communion in the hand, the universal discipline of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue has not changed. A bishop, for example, may forbid the practice of Communion in the hand but not the practice of Communion on the tongue. The Church strongly encourages the latter but not the former. With respect to the former, the Church speaks only in a cautionary tone because of the many abuses that often accompany this practice. These include the increased likelihood of dropping or stealing the Sacred Host. This unfortunately has happened in these days of revived Satanism. Consecrated hosts have been known to be sold for blasphemous uses.

Dietrich von Hildebrand asked why ultimately the Church should continue to allow Communion in the hand when “it is evidently detrimental from a pastoral viewpoint, when it certainly does not increase our reverence, and when it exposes the Eucharist to the most terrible diabolical abuses? There are really no serious arguments for Communion in the hand. But there are the most gravely serious kinds of arguments against it.”19



Mother Teresa reportedly said, “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.”20
Father John Hardon, S.J. also proclaimed, “Behind Communion in the hand — I wish to repeat and make as plain as I can — is a weakening, a conscious, deliberate weakening of faith in the Real Presence . . . Whatever you can do to stop Communion in the hand will be blessed by God.”21 Even the great Pope John Paul II reportedly said: “There is an apostolic letter on the existence of a special valid permission for this [Communion in the hand]. But I tell you that I am not in favor of this practice, nor do I recommend it.”22

The abusive and hurried manner in which the practice of Communion in the hand was imposed after Vatican II lead to a widespread lack of reverence for the Eucharist and caused great pain for many in the Church. It disoriented many people, who with real justification — especially in light of the recent and overwhelming loss of faith in the Eucharist as the real presence — feared that the very heart of Catholic belief had been compromised. Further, as Communion on the tongue helps to foster a proper sense of reverence and piety, I believe it is high time this practice be returned to its former place of prominence — not only for the greater glory of God but for the salvation of souls.


End Notes

1. Father Regis Scanlon, O.F.M., Cap., “Eucharistic Piety: A Strong Recommendation” (Theotokos, the newsletter of the Auraria Catholic Club).

2. Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Catholic News Agency (February 1, 2008).

3. Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Catholic World News (February 1, 2008).

4. Congregation for Divine Worship, Memoriale Domini (May 28, 1969).

5. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Internal Communication Directive” (March 23, 1970), hereafter cited CCCB.

6. Ibid.

7. Memoriale Domini.

8. Congregation for Divine Worship, En response a la demande (“To presidents of those conferences of bishops petitioning the indult for Communion in the hand,” May 29, 1969: AAS 61 [1969] 546-547; 351-353).

9. CCCB, ref. 628.

10. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Nation Bulletin on Liturgy (# 77 P. 31).

11. The Communion rail was effective in serving as a brace for those who had trouble kneeling on their own, especially the frail, weak or elderly. Its removal not only deterred the faithful from kneeling, since one could now approach the altar rail and remain standing for Holy Communion; for those who were infirm and who wished to kneel, it made kneeling practically impossible. In some of the older churches the Communion rail physically remains but is, nonetheless, not usually used for the Novus Ordo Mass.

12. CCCB.

13. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), p. 185.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., p. 193.

16. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (III, Q. 82, Art. 3).

17. Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, no. 11.

18. Comment made by a member of the Pontificium Consilium ad Christianorum Unitatem Fovendam in a personal letter of December 17, 1999.

19. Dietrich von Hildebrand, “Communion in the hand should be rejected,” November 8, 1973.

20. As reported by Father George Ruder in his 1989 Good Friday sermon at St. Agnes Church, New York.

21. Father John Hardon, S.J., November 1, 1997, Call to Holiness Conference, Detroit, Michigan.

22. Pope John Paul II responding to a reporter from Stimme des glaubens magazine during his visit to Fulda, Germany in November 1980.

Mr. Paul Kokoski holds a B.A. in philosophy from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His articles have been published in several Catholic journals, including Catholic Insight and Challenge Magazine.


Vatican liturgical official makes new plea for ‘Reform of the reform’

February 23, 2009 (

A key Vatican official has called for “bold and courageous” decisions to address liturgical abuses that have arisen since the reforms of Vatican II.

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, cites a flawed understanding of Vatican II teachings and the influence of secular ideologies are reasons to conclude that — as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in 1985 — “the true time of Vatican II has not yet come.” Particularly in the realm of the liturgy, Archbishop Ranjith says, “The reform has to go on.”
Archbishop Ranjith, who was called to the Vatican personally by Pope Benedict to serve as a papal ally in the quest to restore a sense of reverence in the liturgy, makes his comments in the Foreword to a new book based on the diaries and notes of Cardinal Fernando Antonelli, who was a key figure in the liturgical-reform movement both before and after Vatican II.





The writings of Cardinal Antonelli, Archbishop Ranjith says, help the reader “to understand the complex inner workings of the liturgical reform prior to an immediately following the Council.” The Vatican official concludes that implementation of the Council’s suggested reforms often veered away from the actual intent of the Council fathers. As a result, Archbishop Ranjith concludes, the liturgy today is not a true realization of the vision put forward in the key liturgical document of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Specifically, Archbishop Ranjith writes:
Some practices which Sacrosanctum Concilium had never even contemplated were allowed into the Liturgy, like Mass versus populum, Holy Communion in the hand, altogether giving up on the Latin and Gregorian Chant in favor of the vernacular and songs and hymns without much space for God, and extension beyond any reasonable limits of the faculty to concelebrate at Holy Mass. There was also the gross misinterpretation of the principle of “active participation.”
The Sri Lankan prelate argues that it in order to carry out a “reform of the reform,” it is essential to recognize how the liturgical vision of Vatican II became distorted. He praises the book on Cardinal Antonelli for allowing the reader to gain a better understanding of “which figures or attitudes caused the present situation.” This, the archbishop says, is an inquiry “which, in the name of truth, we cannot abandon.”
While acknowledging “the turbulent mood of the years that immediately followed the Council,” Archbishop Ranjith reminds readers that in summoning the world’s bishops to an ecumenical council, Blessed John XXIII intended “a fortification of the faith.” The Council, in the eyes of Pope John, was “certainly not a call to go along with the spirit of the times.”

However, he continues, the Council took place at a time of great worldwide intellectual turmoil, and in its aftermath especially, many would-be interpreters saw the event as a break from the prior traditions of the Church. As Archbishop Ranjith puts it:
Basic concepts and themes like Sacrifice and Redemption, Mission, Proclamation and Conversion, Adoration as an integral element of Communion, and the need of the Church for salvation–all were sidelined, while
Dialogue, Inculturation, Ecumenism, Eucharist-as-Banquet, Evangelization-as-Witness, etc., became more important. Absolute values were disdained.
Even in the work of the Consilium, the Vatican agency assigned to implement liturgical changes, these influences were clearly felt, the archbishop notes: An exaggerated sense of antiquarianism, anthopologism, confusion of roles between the ordained and the non-ordained, a limitless provision of space for experimentation– and indeed, the tendency to look down upon some aspects of the development of the Liturgy in the second millennium– were increasingly visible among certain liturgical schools.
Today, Archbishop Ranjith writes, the Church can look back and recognize the influences that distorted the original intent of the Council. That recognition, he says, should “help us to be courageous in improving or changing that which was erroneously introduced and which appears to be incompatible with the true dignity of the Liturgy.” A much-needed “reform of the reform,” he argues, should be inspired by “not merely a desire to correct past mistakes but much more the need to be true to what the Liturgy in fact is and means to us and what the Council itself defined it to be.”
Archbishop Ranjith’s 10-page Foreword appears in the English-language edition of a book entitled True Development of the Liturgy is written by Msgr. Nicola Giampietro, who serves on the staff of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It will be available in September from Roman Catholic Books.


Ratzinger’s Best Pupils Are in Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan

By Sandro Magister, Rome, October 14, 2010

They are the bishops Ranjith and Schneider. They follow the pope’s example in the liturgical camp more and better than many of their colleagues in Italy and Europe. One revealing test is the manner of giving communion at Mass

In Sri Lanka, the bishops and priests dress all in white, as can be seen in the unusual photograph above: with the entire clergy of the diocese of Colombo, the capital, diligently listening to its archbishop, Malcolm Ranjith, who is likely to be made a cardinal at the next consistory.
In his diocese, Archbishop Ranjith has proclaimed a special year of the Eucharist. And to prepare for it, he gathered all of his priests for three days of intensive study in Colombo, where he brought in two outstanding speakers from Rome: Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Vatican congregation for divine worship, and Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, a member of the same congregation and an adviser for the office of pontifical liturgical celebrations.
Lang, German by birth and an Oratorian, was raised in Great Britain in the school of the great Henry Newman, who was beatified by Benedict XVI last September 19 in Birmingham. He is the author of one of the books that have provoked the most discussion in recent years, in the liturgical field: “Rivolti al Signore,” in which he maintains that the correct orientation in liturgical prayer is toward Christ, for both the priests and the faithful. The book opens with a preface by Joseph Ratzinger, written shortly before his election as pope.
Archbishop Ranjith, who before returning to Sri Lanka was secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, was and is an enthusiastic admirer and promoter of the thesis of Lang’s book, as well as having the trust of Benedict XVI. Just like Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, not for nothing called “the Ratzinger of Spain” in his country, who was called to Rome by the pope to guide the Church in liturgical matters, a central objective of this pontificate.
Not only that. In order to offer more insight to his priests during the three days of study, Archbishop Ranjith brought in from Germany a Catholic writer of the first rank, Martin Mosebach, also the author of a book that has raised a great deal of discussion: “Eresia dell’informe. La liturgia romana e il suo nemico.” And he asked him to speak precisely on the Church’s disarray in the liturgical field.



All of this for what ultimate aim? Ranjith explained this in a pastoral letter to the diocese: to rekindle faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and to teach how to express this faith in appropriate liturgical signs.
For example, by celebrating the Mass “facing the Lord,” by receiving communion on the tongue instead of in the hand, and by kneeling to receive it. In short, with those actions that are distinctive traits of the Masses celebrated by pope Ratzinger.
The striking thing about this and other similar news is that Benedict XVI’s work to restore vitality and dignity to the Catholic liturgy seems better understood and applied on the “outskirts” of the Church than in its European center of gravity.
It is no secret, for example, that Gregorian chant is today more vibrant and widespread in some countries of Africa and Asia than it is in Europe.
Among the guidelines given by Archbishop Ranjith for the Eucharistic year in the diocese of Colombo is, in fact, that of teaching the faithful to chant in Latin, at the Mass, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei.
In the same way, Benedict XVI’s decision to liberalize the use of the ancient missal alongside the modern one – for a mutual enrichment of the two forms of celebration – seems to be understood and applied in Africa and Asia better than in some regions of Europe.
Another proof of this concerns the way in which communion is given to the faithful: in the hand or on the tongue, standing or kneeling.
The example given by Benedict XVI – on the tongue, and kneeling – finds very few imitators above all in Europe, in Italy, and even in Rome, where almost everywhere communion is still given in the hand to anyone who approaches to receive it, in spite of the fact that the liturgical norms permit this only in exceptional cases.
In Palermo, where the pope went last October 3, some of the local priests refused to get in line to receive communion from him, simply to avoid taking part in an action with which they do not agree.
The rumor has also spread that at the Masses celebrated by the pope, people kneel because they are before him, and not to adore Jesus in the most holy sacrament. A rumor that finds a hearing even though for some time communion has also been given to the faithful on the tongue and kneeling by the cardinals and bishops who celebrate under the pope’s mandate.
It is no surprise that the article that http://www.chiesa dedicated in mid-September to the meaning of kneeling in adoration before God and the Eucharist raised protests from various readers, including some priests. The main argument brought out against kneeling for communion is that the model and origin of the Mass is the Last Supper, where the apostles were seated and ate and drank with their hands.
It is the same argument adopted by the Neocatechumenals to justify their “convivial” way of celebrating the Mass and taking communion, to which they continue to adhere thanks to the permission that the Church authorities – among whom they boast some supporters, like substitute secretary of state Fernando Filoni – have given them to “receive communion standing while remaining in place” (article 13.3 of their statutes).
Here as well, to find the parishes, the dioceses, the priests and bishops who act and teach in full harmony with Benedict XVI, it is easier to go looking on the “outskirts” of the Church: for example, in remote Kazakhstan, in ex-Soviet central Asia.
There, in the diocese of Karaganda, all of the faithful receive communion on the tongue and kneeling. And there is a bishop there, the auxiliary of Karaganda, Athanasius Schneider, who has written a little gem of a book on the subject, entitled: “Dominus est – It Is the Lord! Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion.”
The book is in two parts. The first recounts the heroic life of those Catholic women who during the years of communist rule brought communion to the faithful in secret, defying the prohibitions. And the second explains the faith that was at the origin of that heroism: a faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that was so strong as to be willing to die for it.
And it is against this background that Bishop Schneider revisits the Fathers of the Church and the history of the liturgy in the West and in the East, shedding light on the origin and reinforcement of this adoring manner of receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue.
When pope Ratzinger read Bishop Schneider’s manuscript in 2008, he immediately ordered the Libreria Editrice Vaticana to publish it. And it did, in Italian and Spanish.
The English edition of the book has a preface written by the archbishop of Colombo, Ranjith.
The book: Athanasius Schneider, “Dominus est – It Is the Lord! Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion,” 2008.
The program of the three days of study on the Eucharist organized by the archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Ranjith, for the priests of his diocese:
> Liturgy Convention, 1st-3rd september 2010
The article from http://www.chiesa on September 13, 2010: > Why Kneel for Communion


Cardinal Ranjith’s Reforms in His Archdiocese
(Emphases in italics as in the original)

Rorate Caeli, June 25, 2011

Fr. Simon Henry of Offerimus Tibi was present at the Adoratio 2011 conference in Rome and wrote three posts on the conference as it unfolded:

Adoratio – Rome 2011

Pope Benedict’s intention – BEYOND INDULTS AND PERMISSIONS – that kneeling for Communion remains universal




(This post says of Mauro Cardinal Piacenza that at a concelebrated Mass during the conference at which he was the main celebrant, “at the canon of the Mass he dropped his voice considerably (even though microphones were used) and so the canon was not actually silent but sotto voce.”)


Impressive forward thinking bishops

The final post reports, among other things, the statements of Cardinal Ranjith during the conference:

In his address to the Conference he spoke of the lack of faith in many parts of the Church itself, a lack of faith in the objective presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
He thought there was often a lack of wonder and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, quoting St Augustine saying, “We would sin if we did not adore Him before receiving Him.”

The Cardinal spoke of the meaningless and tasteless (in many senses) experience of the Eucharist in many parishes because of a noisy and frenetic atmosphere that was no longer devout, adoring and contemplative. These aspects are not of choice but essential to a celebration of the Mass – an experience much more usual in the “Tridentine” Mass.

Of the priest facing the people instead of the Lord, he said that it promoted an attitude of showmanship, a silent body language of entertainment inevitably enters into the Mass.
It is an innovation never advocated by the Second Vatican Council and is not respectful of the awesome mystery of the Holy Eucharist. (There was here an extended interruption for as applause echoed around the auditorium.)

He re-iterated the view that active participation does not mean outward activity but interior adoration, which takes a great deal of effort and spiritual activity.

Later over dinner he was also telling us of some of the changes he has made in his own diocese:

Each and every church has altar rails once again for the reception of Holy Communion, which is to be received kneeling.

The allowance to deviate from the universal norm of Holy Communion on the tongue has been withdrawn. So Communion is always on the tongue.

Priests must dress in the proper vestments for Mass.

Priests are forbidden to bring elements or styles of worship from other religions into the sacred liturgy.


Readers have left 30 comments. A selection:

1. Cardinal Ranjith has rebuilt the altar rails and revoked the indult to receive communion in the hand. Deo Gratias!!

2. Can he make him the next Archbishop of Philadelphia please!

3. “…the lack of faith in many parts of the Church itself, a lack of faith in the objective presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist…”
This is particularly striking amongst the hierarchy and presbyterate of the post-conciliar church. It is utterly scandalous meeting such people who have no belief in Real Presence especially at Holy Communion.
France could do with Cardinal Ranjith replacing the current incumbent Vingt-Trois who is the chief advocate of modernist Novus Ordo services that flout the rubrics of the Novus Ordo liturgy on a routine and weekly basis.

4. The “New Evangelisation” will not work unless it places the Traditional Latin Mass at its centre. Padre Pio meant that when he explained the world could function better without the sun than without The Holy Mass and, of course, he meant the TLM.

5. Regarding Cardinal Ranjith and the TLM: According to the Father Schmidberger, former Superior General of the SSPX, the Cardinal says the TLM in private.

6. Ranjith is only 62 years old, and I believe he is fluent in several languages… Papabile, I hope. 
Let’s pray for his health and longevity.

7. I may be slammed for this but as someone who grew up Novus Ordo, and now prefers the TLM (nothing against NO, I know it is valid, I occasionally go as it is across the street from me), the sotto voice is indeed a help to those of us trying with God’s help to follow and pray the Mass. With so many different Priests celebrating the Tridentine Form and them not being the same every week it is difficult to follow their pace and get to know where we are at certain points during Mass. Sitting further back in a Church you cannot always see the gestures. So even with the Missal unless you know very well an individual Priests’ mode or speed, it is easy to be way off in regards to the place in the Missal. I think a permission to pray the Mass audibly, perhaps with a sotto consecration with the understanding that it is a temporary ruling to foster learning which will at some point expire and revert to silent, perhaps a generation would be helpful. I brought 2 people to the TLM last week for Corpus Christi and their only complaint, and it was not the Latin itself which surprised me, but was the fact that they could not follow in the Missal because they could not hear it. One was completely lost and felt he might not go again for this sole reason. It echoes my sentiments, however I have chosen to endure it because I still prefer this Form and feel it very Holy and full of distinctly Catholic ethos. But the inaudible parts still stumble me after several years. Folks new to this Form need as much help as possible to foster understanding and should be able to follow in their Missals.

8. The battle outside the Church pits the Church vs. Modernists/Liberals/Communists/Atheists/and the Perverts. The battle within has moved into a 3 part battle Traditionalists/Conservatives/and a remnant group of dying off liberals. Most younger liberals are out of the church today. The Conservatives are trying to prop up the Novus Ordo when from the beginning it was an invention of the Liberals. Aren’t Conservatives wonderful, they are now trying to conserve the Liberal destruction which itself has died. Oh Brother!





9. “The mass exists to honour and worship God, not to satisfy the wishes of the faithful, so what the faithful – and the clergy – want or do not want is quite irrelevant.”
It is very relevant indeed, as dissatisfied faithful and clergy can make life hard for their bishop, sabotaging his efforts and ultimately making things so difficult that Rome will be forced to replace him. This has happened before and can happen again.
To place things in perspective: only a year ago, Sri Lankan priests and bishops often wore their stoles outside their chasubles (and these didn’t even always have the same color), veiling and communion kneeling and on the tongue were practiced by a minority, and altar rails had disappeared. Things are going forward in Sri Lanka at the speed of light compared to the rest of the universal Church, and this in a country where there wasn’t even ANY “Traditionalist” or “Reform of the Reform” movement to speak of before Cardinal Ranjith came around.
Cardinal Ranjith already said last year that he intends to offer Solemn Pontifical Mass according to the 1962 Missal. Give the man time.

10. Look, ladies and gentlemen, you are living in a dreamworld. The N.O. is a seriously defective Mass regardless of how reverently it is celebrated. I read the story about the two priests and the plan for them to start was not one year ago. It was much longer ago than that. The fact remains that there are zero Traditional Latin Masses in the entire Island-nation of Ceylon. Zero on any regular basis at all. At this rate, the Cardinal will die of old age long before he can make a significant difference. Can it be that hard for ONE PRIEST, perhaps an older priest who knows the old Mass) to be encouraged to start offering it while the others are being trained? 
There are ZERO approved T.L.M.s in India. Not one. But we have one in Estonia, where the celebrant is almost the only Catholic in the country. And we have one in Belarus. And we have one in Sweden. There is one on Guam. New Zealand, which has a very low Catholic population, has them in all but one of it seven dioceses.
Everyone here is so determined–all the neo-cons here–to defend this Cardinal just because he is sympathetic to us. Well, yes, he is sympathetic but stop deluding yourselves. No priest needs any permission to offer the T.L.M. now and can do so without being asked by a cœtus or even one laic (read Article 5 of S.P. together with Article 1 and Canon 837). The good Cardinal need only encourage a priest. There are celebrants in Indonesia but they are being discouraged, even threatened. So where are the willing celebrants in Ceylon? They are likely waiting for a positive signal. And waiting. And waiting.
No lay support? Rubbish. The S.S.P.X now offers Mass in about seven dioceses in India. But not one Indian diocese has one–not even Bombay…

Should not the faithful of Africa and Asia have access to this “ancient and venerable use” which has been hallowed for countless centuries? Is the Mass of all time only for Europeans and Americans? That is a sickening attitude. I would expect better from the bishops in those continents. How can it be too much to have just one T.L.M. every Sunday in all of India and Ceylon when there are over 200 every Sunday in France?

11. I’d rather clone men like Cardinal Ottaviani–and Archbishop Lefebvre. If we had had more bishops like them, this revolution in the Age of Aquarius would never have infected Holy Church.


Cardinal Ranjith to his clergy: communion on the tongue only and while kneeling is mandatory

April 3, 2012

As reported last year on Rorate
the Archbishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, has restored in his archdiocese the practice of communion on the tongue only and while kneeling. Last month, on the Feast of St. Joseph, he reiterated in an address to his clergy that this manner of receiving communion is mandatory for all of the faithful in his territory, even during outdoor Masses (emphasis mine):

May I also remind you once again that in all Churches and Chapels in the Archdiocese Holy Communion is to be administered only on the tongue and kneeling. This should be implemented as normal use even at Holy Mass celebrated with the participation of a big crowd outdoors. On such occasions at least the youth and the children as well as the “youthful” should be called upon to kneel and receive the Lord. This is the most appropriate way of expressing our profoundest belief in the continuous and personal presence of the Lord in the most Sacred Host as we acclaim “down in adoration falling, lo! the Sacred Host we hail”. And in all our Churches, as an expression of that faith our people should be called upon to receive the Holy Communion, kneeling. And so kindly take steps to fix the altar rails and a cushion line fixed to the ground before the railing so that all could kneel and receive easily. It is also good for us to explain to our people about the teaching of the Church on the Most Holy Eucharist as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church Nos. 1373-1381.

The Archbishop also announced that he will personally take charge of the effort to correct liturgical abuses regarding Mass vestments in the Archdiocese of Colombo:

I would also like to insist with you on the culture of priestly vestments at Holy Mass. In a sermon Pope Benedict gave at the Chrism Mass held at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 5th April 2007, he explained this need in relation to what happens at Baptism where we put on Christ. St. Paul said so: “for as many of you as were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27]. The Pope continued: “This is what is fulfilled in Baptism; we put on Christ, He gives us His garments and these are not something external. It means that we enter into an existential communion with Him, that His being and our being merge, penetrate one another” [Priests of Jesus Christ, Family Publications, Oxford 2009 p.31]. The challenge to let Christ live in us is indicated by this putting on of Christ – “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” [Galatians 2:20].




The Priest is one who is called upon to live that intimate spirit of communion with Christ even more intensely, especially when he celebrates the Eucharist. It is the highest point of our communion with Him, when we become totally identified with Him in His salvific sacrifice on Calvary. States the Pope “at the moment of priestly ordination, the Church has also made this reality of “new clothes” visible and comprehensive to us externally through being clothed in Liturgical vestments…the “putting on of Him” is demonstrated again and again at every Holy Mass by putting on the Liturgical vestments…the fact that we are standing at the altar clad in Liturgical vestments must make it clearly visible to those present that we are there ‘in the person of Christ’.”[ibid p.32] Indeed we ought to recall how Jesus explaining the parable of the wedding feast stressed on the need to be attired in a proper garment. He who was not thus dressed was ordered to be thrown with hand and feet tied into the dark where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth [cfr. Matthew 22:13]. The Vatican Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum of 2004 states on the matter: “the vestments proper to the priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with the Mass, unless otherwise indicated, is the Chasuble, worn over the alb and stole” [123] and then it states “the abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments or with only a stole over the monastic cowl or the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes” [126]. The same document states that the “ordinaries should take care that in all Churches and oratories subject to their jurisdiction there is present an adequate supply of Liturgical vestments made in accordance with the norms” [ibid]. And so dear fathers, kindly ensure that in each Church in your parishes there is an adequate supply of a sufficient number of amices, girdles, stoles and chasubles for daily use. When I come for my parish visits starting from January next year, I will check on this matter personally. Kindly begin celebrating your daily sacrifice of the Eucharist properly clad and that means dressed with the alb, with or without the amice, the girdle, stole and chasuble. This should start immediately. The Auxiliary Bishops and Episcopal Vicars should kindly ensure that this is strictly followed in your areas.

His sharp remarks regarding abortion should be noted as well.


Readers have left 45 comments. A selection:

1. What a Pope he would make…

2. I was thinking the same thing. In the meantime he would be a great replacement for Levada at the CDF.

3. This is wonderful. Clear instructions. Not ones that are issued with a million exceptions so as to make the order useless. We need clear and concise direction from our bishops. NOT muddled and contradicting statements and suggestions from a myriad of committees and sub-committees. Bishops…be bishops and LEAD!

4. I can’t think of another single (non-SSPX, non-Campos) bishop who has instituted such a requirement. Quite remarkable and heartening.

5. What a sharp contrast to Cardinals Wuerl and Schönborn and other usual suspects.
Thank you Cardinal Ranjith for restoring Tradition to your Archdiocese. May this same order and restoration be issued from the Vatican without any delay for the entire Church! For the honor of God and the salvation of souls.

6. Cardinal Ranjith was run out of Rome by the Modernists. His consolation prize for going back to Sri Lanka was being made cardinal by Pope Benedict. He was one of the only few supporters of the Holy Father in the Vatican. He would have been a great prefect of the CDW. He is my number one choice to succeed Benedict. Many people in this country are high on Burke, but Ranjith is well above and beyond Burke as a better choice.

7. Deo Gratias…can we get an American Bishop to do the same…doubt it.

8. All Dioceses in Kazakhstan as well have only kneeling and on the tongue as well.

9. Well done Cardinal Ranjith, I only pray you stay firm in your desired to correct the liturgical abuses at least in your Archdiocese. Remember that many souls are under your care and you just like your brother bishops will have to give an account for each and every one of those souls to the KING OF KINGS.

10. Oh, that Cardinal Ranjith would become the next pope. In the meanwhile, I pray that Our Lord blesses him and that He may bless the Church Militant with priests that are filled with the Holy Spirit and the zeal of the Apostles. +JMJ+

11. Seraph is oh-so-right concerning the relative mettle of Cardinal Ranjith Patabendige Don w.r.t. that of a certain American Cardinal often given to behind-the-scenes rug-pulling…..
I cannot help but wonder whether the resolute plain-speaking of this Sri Lankan is what earned him his ticket home.

12. Latin Mass Society of Cebu said: All hail this Archbishop! Orthodox and True to the Catholic Faith!

13. Makes me wish i lived in his archdiocese. Courage amongst the cardinals seems to be in short supply these days. Cardinal Ranjith is a much needed shepherd who will bring a renewed hope and spirit to all of Asia. I pray that he will encourage other cardinals to follow his example.

14. Vince, I too, like you, wholeheartedly wish I lived in Sri Lanka under his episcopal jurisdiction. May God the Holy Spirit hear my ardent prayer, “please, please let him be our next Pope.” –Michael Prabhu Catholic apologist INDIA, April 6, 2012


Church in Sri Lanka calls for modesty in lay dress…r-modesty.html

January 12, 2009



The clothing some young women wear to Mass at Colombo’s main Catholic Church is attracting attention, judging by the messages on the notice board asking them to dress more modestly.
Father Tony Martyn, appointed parish priest of St. Lucia’s Cathedral in 2006, says Sunday Mass there has become something of a women’s fashion parade. This may have silent admirers, but it definitely has others frowning.
“Modesty is a virtue not limited to conduct, gestures, language, reading and thought, but also to clothing,” Father Martyn told UCA News at the end of December.
“Here they (people) meet God,” the priest said.
Three priests at the cathedral and some parishioners complain that some young women come to church in revealing short skirts, halter tops and low-cut blouses. This creates an unpleasant atmosphere, sets a bad example for youngsters and distracts many people, especially young men, they maintain. They also say little was done about the situation in the past.
Since November, however, some parishioners have distributed head veils free of charge to women, especially the young, to be worn during church services. Women traditionally wore a head covering to church, but the practice has slipped.
Meanwhile, the cathedral notice board shows pictures of modest dress as well as signs parishioners have put up calling on women to dress modestly and all parishioners not to dress extravagantly. Some signs appeal to parents to educate children about this. “Begin early,” one said.
Father Joseph cited Saint Paul’s admonition against extravagant dress in his First Letter to Timothy…


Vatican Official decries opposition to Summorum Pontificum
Rome, November 5, 2007 (

In an interview with the Italian Petrus web site, Archbishop Albert Ranjith Patabendige, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, acknowledged that the papal document, Summorum Pontificum, has been met in some dioceses with criticism and resistance. In some cases, the Sri Lankan prelate said, the hostility amounts to “rebellion against the Pope.”
Reminding the interviewer, Albert Bruno, that every bishop swears allegiance to the Roman Pontiff, Archbishop Ranjith said that “everyone, and particular every pastor, is called to obey the Pope, who is the successor to Peter.” He called bishops to follow the papal directive faithfully, “setting aside all pride and prejudice.”
Archbishop Ranjith complained that in some dioceses, bishops and their representatives have set out policies “inexplicably” limiting the scope of the Pope’s motu proprio. He charged that the resistance to the Pope’s policy has been driven by “on the one hand, ideological prejudices, and on the other hand pride– one of the deadliest sins.”
Early in October, in an address to the Latin Liturgy Association in the Netherlands, Archbishop Ranjith had delivered an equally blunt assessment of the response to Summorum Pontificum, saying that bishops were being “disobedient” to the Pope, and stifling the impact of the motu proprio by their policies. Diocesan bishops “do not have this right,” he said, and bishops who defy the Pope’s authority are allowing themselves “to be used as instruments of the devil.”

COMMENTS by CWNews Editor
It’s unusual for a top Vatican official to release public criticism of other bishops. It’s even more unusual when the criticism comes from the second-ranking official in a Vatican dicastery.
The #2 man in the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Ranjith, has now issued two stinging rebukes to bishops who are blocking implementation of Summorum Pontificum. His very blunt statements are even more remarkable in light of the fact that Cardinal Arinze, his immediate superior as prefect of the Congregation, has been very quiet– in fact utterly silent, conspicuously silent– about the motu proprio.


Is Archbishop Ranjith speaking out on his own initiative? If so, he’s endangering his future at the Vatican. But what if he’s not speaking on his own? What if he’s been encouraged to take such a strong stand? There’s only one person in Rome whose encouragement would be enough to push this mild-mannered prelate out onto the front lines. -Phil Lawler


Pope Benedict bans rock ‘n’ roll

By Malcolm Moore, Tuesday June 27, 2006

The Pope has called for an end to electric guitars and modern music being played in Church and demanded a return to traditional choirs and Gregorian chants. The Catholic Church has been experimenting with new ways of holding Mass to try to attract more people as attendances continue to fall. The recital of Mass set to guitars has grown in popularity in Italy. In Spain, Mass has been set to flamenco music and in the United States, the Electric Prunes produced a “psychedelic” album called Mass in F Minor.

However, the use of guitars and tambourines has irked Pope Benedict, who loves classical music. “It is possible to modernise holy music,” the Pope said, at a concert conducted by Domenico Bartolucci, the director of music at the Sistine Chapel. “But it should not happen outside the traditional path of Gregorian chants or sacred polyphonic choral music.”

His comments prompted the newspaper La Stampa to compare him with Pope Pius X, who denounced faddish classical and baroque compositions and reinstated Gregorian chants.

Benedict XVI’s supporters argue that the music played during Mass is a vital part of the communion between worshippers and God and that medieval church music, with the liturgy, creates the correct ambience for perceiving God’s mystery.

“It is often forgotten that the liturgy is not a symbol but rather a truth,” said Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, the Archbishop of Ravenna. “Mass is the presence of Christ and the music adds so much more when the harmony allows the mind to transcend the concrete to the divine.”

However, Cardinal Carlo Furno, the grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, said it was “better to have guitars on the altar and rock and roll Masses than empty churches”. He said the use of modern music was a “sign of the vitality of the faith”.

The argument about modern or traditional music is part of a wider debate over whether to return to a Latin Mass. If Latin Masses are not reintroduced into common practice, few Catholics will know the words to the Latin Gregorian chants which the Pope advocates.

The Latin Mass was restricted in the Vatican II reforms of the 1960s, on the grounds that they were deterring worshippers from going to Church. However, Msgr. Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige, the secretary of the Congregation of Divine Faith, said there is “a need to reinforce the conquests of the past”. He said the traditional Mass of St Pius V had “never been abolished”. John Allen, the author of a biography on Pope Benedict, said he thought a “universal indulgence” would be issued to priests allowing them once again to say Mass in Latin whenever they wanted to.

Pope Benedict has also begun to reform the Roman Curia in his image, recently appointing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as his new secretary of state, the Vatican’s equivalent of prime minister. Cardinal Bertone, 71, was the pope’s right hand man at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for many years.


What’s Behind Liturgical Abuses? Interview with Leader of Traditional Mass Community

By Alexandre Ribeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 9, 2008 (

The bishop of a Brazilian community that celebrates the Mass according to the 1962 missal contends that abuses in the liturgy can be attributed to the lack of a serious spirituality.
Bishop Fernando Arêas Rifan, apostolic administrator of the St. John Maria Vianney Personal Apostolic Administration in Brazil, spoke with ZENIT about the richness of the extraordinary form of the Mass. The use of that form was extended with Benedict XVI’s “Summorum Pontificum,” released last July.
The St. John Maria Vianney group was founded by Bishop Licínio Rangel, who was ordained a bishop without papal approval in 1991 by bishops themselves illicitly ordained by Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X.
Bishop Rangel later asked to return to full communion and expressed the necessary dispositions. He received a letter granting his wish from Pope John Paul II and returned to the Church in a ceremony in 2002, presided over by the Pontiff and Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
Today, the apostolic administration continues serving Catholics in Brazil devoted to the traditional Mass, and have full communion with the Catholic Church. […]

Q: What indications do you give for avoiding scarce attention and respect for the liturgy?
Bishop Rifan: Speaking of the abuses following the liturgical reform, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lamented that the liturgy degenerated into a show, in which they seek to make religion interesting with the help of stylish elements, with momentary successes in the group of the liturgical “manufacturers” [in the] introduction to the book “La Réforme Liturgique” by Monsignor Klaus Gamber, page 6 and 8. Cardinal Edouard Gagnon was of the same opinion. “It cannot be ignored that the [liturgical] reform has given rise to many abuses and have led in a certain degree to the disappearance of respect for the sacred. This fact should be unfortunately admitted and it excuses a good number of those people who have distanced themselves from our Church and their former parish communities [in] “Fundamentalism and Conservatism,” interview with Cardinal Gagnon, “Zitung — Römisches,” November-December 1993, page 35.


I think that the central point of the abuses was indicated by Cardinal Ratzinger himself: the door left open to a false creativity on the part of the celebrants [in an] interview in “L’homme Nouveau,” October 2001.
Behind this is the lack of a serious spirituality, [the idea that] to attract the people, novelties should be invented. Holy Mass is attractive in itself, because of its sacredness and mystery. Deep down, we’re dealing with the diminishment of faith in the Eucharistic mysteries and an attempt to replace it with novelties and creativity. When the celebrant wants to become the protagonist of the liturgical action, abuses begin. It is forgotten that the center of the Mass is Jesus Christ.
The current secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Bishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, laments: “Holy Mass is a sacrifice, gift, mystery, independently of the priest who celebrates it. It is important, I would say fundamental, that the priest draws back: The protagonist of the Mass is Christ. I don’t understand, therefore, the Eucharistic celebrations transformed into shows with dances, songs or applause, as lamentably happens many times with the Novus Ordo.”
The solution to the abuse is in the norms given by the Magisterium, above all in the document “Redemptionis Sacramentum” of March 25, 2004, which asks that “everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favoritism” — No. 183.
But, as Bishop Ranjith says, “there are a lot of documents [against these abuses] that unfortunately have remained a dead letter, forgotten in libraries full of dust, or even worse, thrown into the waste basket.”


Interview with Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith
Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

See also

November 23, 2007, Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) (Fides English Translation)
The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI on 7 July 2007 came into force on 14 September. The document treats the Rite of Saint Pius V revised in 1962 by Pope John XXIII. The Motu Proprio (Latin, “of his own accord”) allows the celebration of Mass using the Tridentine Missal without the formerly requested permission of the local bishop. The Second Vatican Council and in particular the Liturgical Renewal of 1970 promoted by Pope Paul VI, issued a new Missal to replace the old Missal. Although the latter was never officially abolished, to use the old Missal, the faithful had to obtain permission from the local bishop. This permission was sanctioned by a Motu Proprio: Ecclesia Dei Adflicta signed by Pope John Paul II on 2 July 1988. Now, with this new Motu Proprio, permission is no longer necessary and any «stable group» of faithful may ask the parish priest to celebrate Mass using the old Missal.
On the subject of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was kind enough to answer some questions put by Fides.
FIDES: Archbishop Ranjith, in your opinion what is the significance of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: In this decision I see not only the Holy Father’s desire to open the path for followers of Monsignor Lefebvre to return to the full communion of the Church, but also a sign for the whole Church with regard to the safeguarding of certain theological-disciplinary principles with a view towards the profound renewal, so desired by the Council.
It appears to me that the Pope is anxious to correct the tendency visible in certain circles, to see the Council as a break with the past and a new beginning. It suffices to call to mind the Holy Father’s address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005. Besides, the Council never thought of itself in those terms. With its doctrinal and liturgical, juridical-pastoral decisions, the Council was one of many moments of profound reflection and renewal undertaken by the Church in her bi-millennial history with regard to her rich theological-spiritual heritage. With the Motu Proprio the Pope clearly affirms that any temptation to scorn venerated tradition is out of place. The message is clear: progress, yes, but not at the expense of history, or without it. The Liturgical Reform must also be faithful to all that went before from the beginning down to our day, nothing excluded.
On the other hand, we must not forget that for the Catholic Church divine revelation comes not only from the Sacred Scriptures, it comes also from the living Tradition of the Church. This belief distinguishes us from other Christian confessions. For us the truth emerges from both these poles Sacred Scripture and Tradition. I find this position much richer than others because it respects God’s freedom to lead us to a deeper understanding of the truth revealed also by events in the future. Naturally it is up to the Teaching of the Church to discern what emerges. However we must realise the importance of Tradition. The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum makes this very clear (DV 10).
What is more, the Church is a reality which surpasses the level of pure human invention. She is the mystical Body of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem, God’s chosen people. Therefore she is above earthly borders and limitations of time, being a reality which greatly transcends its earthly and hierarchical appearance. So what she receives must be faithfully handed on. We are neither the inventors nor the masters of truth, we are merely those who have received it and have the duty to safeguard it and hand it on to others. As Saint Paul said, speaking of the Eucharist: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,” (1 Corinthians 11, 23). It follows that respect for Tradition is not our freely taken choice in the quest for the truth, Tradition is its basis and must be accepted. Therefore fidelity to Tradition is an essential attitude for the Church. In my opinion the Motu Proprio must be understood in this sense. It can spur the necessary correction of route.




In fact in certain decisions of the liturgical reform implemented since the Council, directions have been adopted which obscure certain aspects of the liturgy, better reflected in the earlier practice, because, for some people, liturgical renewal meant starting ex novo. However, we all know this was not the intention of the Sacrosanctum Concilium, which underlines that “care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (SC 23).
FIDES: A characteristic of the pontificate of Benedict XVI would appear to be insistence on a correct hermeneutics of Vatican II. Do you think the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum goes in this direction? If so, in what sense?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: In his writings while still a Cardinal, the Pope rejected a certain spirit of exuberance seen in some theological circles, motivated by the what they called “spirit of the Council” which, for him, was instead an ” anti-Council spirit ” or “Konzils-Ungeist” (Rapporto sulla Fede, San Paolo, 2005, chapter 2) and I quote: “we must firmly oppose this schematism of ‘before’ and ‘after’ the Council in the history of the Church, totally unjustified by the documents of Vatican II which repeatedly reaffirm the continuity of Catholicism” (ibid p. 33).
Now, this mistaken interpretation of the Council and of the Church’s historical-theological journey, has affected every ecclesial sector including the liturgy. A certain attitude of rejection of ecclesiological, theological and also liturgical developments in the past millennium on the one hand and an ingenuous idolisation of what was said to have been the thought of the early Christians, on the other, has had no little influence on the liturgical-theological reform of the post Council era.
Categorical rejection of the pre-Council Mass, as a relict of a epoch now “outdated”, was the result of this mentality. Many saw things in this way, but thank God, not everyone.
Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Liturgy, offers no justification for such an attitude. Both in the general principles and in the norms proposed, the Document is moderate and faithful to the significance of the liturgical life of the Church. It suffices to read paragraph 23 of the document to be convinced of this spirit of moderation.
Some of the reforms have abandoned important elements of the Liturgy with the relative theological considerations: now it is necessary and important to retrieve these elements. The Pope, who considers the rite of Saint Pius V, revised by Blessed John XXIII, a way to retrieve elements obscured by the reform, must have certainly reflected at length before making his decision; we know he consulted different sectors of the Church on the matter and, despite contrary positions, decide to allow the old Rite to be freely celebrated. Rather than a return to the past, as some say, this move indicates the need to restore an integral balance between the eternal, transcendent and heavenly aspects of the liturgy and the earthly and com-munity aspects. It will also help eventually to establish a balance between a sense of the sacred and the mystery on the one hand and on the other the external gestures and social-cultural attitudes and commitments deriving from the liturgy.
FIDES: While still a Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger insisted that the Second Vatican Council should be understood beginning from its first document, precisely, the Sacrosanctum Concilium. Archbishop Ranjith, in your opinion, why did the Council Fathers choose to concentrate first of all on the Liturgy?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: First, this decision was surely prompted by a profound awareness that the Liturgy for the Church is of vital importance. The Liturgy we might say is the hub of the matter, because we celebrate what we believe and live: this is the famous axiom, Lex orandi, lex credendi. Hence all authentic reform must involve the Liturgy. The Fathers realised this. Moreover the process of liturgical reform started long before the Council and was spurred on by the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudini by Saint Pius X and Mediator Dei by Pius XII.
It was Saint Pius X who attributed to the Liturgy the expression “primary source” of authentic Christian spirit. Perhaps the existence of structures and experience of persons engaged in the study and introduction of a few liturgical changes, prompted the Council Father to choose the Liturgy as the first matter to be discussed at the Council meetings. Pope Paul VI expressed the thought of the Council Fathers on the matter when he said: “we remind you to respect the scale of values and duties: first place to God; first obligation prayer; first source of divine life communicated to us, first school of spiritual life, and the first gift we can offer the Christian people, the Liturgy .” (Paul VI, discourse to close the 2nd session of the Council, 4 December 1963).
FIDES: Many saw the publication of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum as a move by the Pope to bring schismatic followers of Lefebvre closer to the Church. Do you agree?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: Yes, but this was not the only reason. The Holy Father explains his decision in the Motu Proprio and in the Letter with which he presents the document to the Bishops and gives other important reasons. Of course he will have taken into account the growing request from various sides especially the Society of Saint Pius X and the Fraternita Sacerdotale of San Pietro and certain Associations of lay Catholics, to make the Mass of Saint Pius V more available. It was important to ensure total integration of the Lefebvrians also because, errors of judgement committed in the past which caused unnecessary divisions in the Church, threaten to become almost impossible to heal. The Pope says this in the above mentioned Letter.
FIDES: What in your opinion are the most urgent issues for a worthy celebration of the Sacred Liturgy? Which instances must be emphasised most?
I believe that in the growing request for the more frequent celebration of the Mass of Saint Pius V, the Pope saw signs of a loss of spiritual depth caused by the way in which the Liturgical moments have so far been celebrated in the Church. These difficulties arise from certain orientations of the post Council liturgical reform which tended to reduce, or better, to obscure essential aspects of the faith, and also from adventurous attitudes, not in keeping with the liturgical discipline of the Reform; this is seen everywhere.



I believe that one of the reasons why certain important elements of the Tridentine Rite were abandoned by certain liturgical sectors in the implementation of the post-conciliar reform is that what is said to have happened in the second millennium of the history of the Liturgy was underestimated and abandoned. Some liturgists saw the developments of that period, negatively. This opinion is mistaken because when we speak of the living Tradition of the Church, we cannot pick and choose to suit our preconceived ideas. Tradition, considered in a general sense also in the areas of science, philosophy or theology, is something living which continues to develop and progress, at high and low moments of history. For the Church, living Tradition is a source of divine revelation and the fruit of a continual process of unfolding. This is true also for liturgical tradition, – small t. Liturgical developments in the second millennium have their value. The Sacrosanctum Concilium does not speak of a new Rite, or a break with the past. Instead it says “new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing”. This is why the Pope writes: “In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.” (Letter to Bishop, 7 July 2007). To idolatrise what happened in the first millennium to the expense of what happened in the second, is hardly a scientific attitude. This was not the attitude of the Council Fathers.
A second problem would be a crisis of obedience to the Holy Father noted in some circles. This attitude of autonomy, visible among certain ecclesiastics, also in the highest ranks of the Church, is of no benefit to the noble mission which Christ entrusted to his Vicar.
There are voices that in some countries or dioceses bishops have issued regulations which attempt to practically annul or completely change the Pope’s intentions. Such behaviour is contrary to the dignity and nobility of the vocation of a bishop of the Church. I am not saying this for everyone. Most bishops and ecclesiastics have accepted the Pope’s decision with due reverence and obedience. This is praiseworthy. But sad to say there have been some protests.
At the same time we cannot deny that the decision was necessary because as the Pope writes: “.in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.” (Letter to the Bishops). The result of this abuse has been a growing spirit of nostalgia for the Mass of S. Pius V. Moreover a general lack of interest in reading and respecting the norms issued by the Holy See, and even of the Introduction to the liturgical books, made the situation worse. Liturgy is still not on the list of priorities for courses of ongoing formation for ecclesiastics. It is necessary to make a clear distinction. The post council reform is not all negative; indeed there are many positive aspects in what has been achieved. But there are also changes and abuses which continue despite their bad effect on the faith and the liturgical life of the Church.
I mention for example, a change not proposed by the Council Fathers or by the Sacrosanctum Concilium, Holy Communion received in the hand. This has contributed to some extent to a weakening of faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This, and the removal of altar rails and kneelers in church and the introduction of practices which oblige the faithful to sit or stand at the elevation of the Sacred Host, weakens the genuine significance of the Eucharist and the Church’s profound sense of adoration for the Lord, the Only Son of God. Moreover in many places, the church the ‘house of God’, is used for meetings, concerts or interreligious celebrations. In some churches the Blessed Sacrament is almost hidden away in a little chapel, hardly seen and little decorated. All this obscures a belief so central in the Church, belief in the real presence of Christ. The church, for Catholics, is the ‘home’ of the Eternal One.

Another serious mistake is to confuse specific roles of the clergy and the laity at the altar making the sanctuary a place of disorder, too much movement and certainly not the ‘place’ where the Christian is filled with a sense of wonder and awe in front of the Lord’s presence and His act of redemption. The use of dancing, musical instruments and singing which have little to do with liturgy, is not in keeping with the sacredness of a church and liturgical celebrations; I would also add, certain homilies of a political-social character, often badly prepared. All this distorts the celebration of Mass, making it a choreographic, theatrical event, instead of an event of faith.

There exist other aspects not in keeping with the beauty and wonder of what is celebrated on the altar. The implementation of the Novus Ordo is not all wrong, but much remains to be put in order, to avoid further harm to the life of the Church. I believe our attitude to the Pope and his expressions of concern for the good of the Church must be that of St Paul who writes to the Corinthians “Let all these things be done in a way that will build up the community” (1 Corinthians 14, 26). (P.L.R.) (Agenzia Fides 16/11/2007; righe 199, parole 2.742)
Agenzia Fides is the international news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples of which India’s Cardinal Ivan Dias is the prefect


“Go to confession and cleanse yourself before receiving Holy Communion” says Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo

By Fr. Sunil De Silva, September 29, 2010


His Grace the Archbishop Most Rev. Dr. Malcolm Ranjith presided at the solemn Jubilee Eucharistic celebration of St. Michael’s Church, Koralawella, Moratuwa, 29th September 2010.

His Grace Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith was welcomed by the Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Leo Camillus and the Parish Pastoral Council and parishioners and was accompanied to the Church in a grand procession.

Very Rev. Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando the Episcopal Vicar for the Region, Rev. Fr. Leo Camillus, Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Calixtus Fernando a son of the soil and several other Fathers concelebrated with His Grace the Archbishop.

His Grace Archbishop Malcolm addressing the faithful said, “The angels are messengers of God assigned with different tasks in His mission. As we heard the 2nd reading today, St. Michael the Archangel fought the battle against the evil and won the battle. Therefore, we use to say the prayer to St. Michael, ‘defend us in the day of battle and safeguard us against the wickedness and snares of the devil…..’. Unfortunately we have abandoned some of the prayers we use to say to Archangels. You are so blessed to find shelter in this church dedicated to St. Michael. St. Michael is empowered by God Himself to help us to battle against the evil and sinfulness within ourselves and in the world. In all our efforts God watches over us and protect us as we journey in the life. Each time we come to the Eucharistic celebration, before we receive Holy Communion, we need cleanse ourselves. Therefore, I urge you to go to confession and cleanse yourself and receive the forgiveness of God.”

His Grace further said, “How often you go to confession? Even without making confession, people have got the habit of just coming and receiving Holy Communion.”
Late Holy Father Pope John Paul II lamented the loss of the sense of sin in the world. In his 1984 apostolic exhortation “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia,” the Holy Father warned that “the loss of the sense of sin is a form or fruit of the negation of God: not only of the atheist, but also of the secularist. This phenomenon implies a paradox. “While the effects of sin abound — greed, dishonesty and corruption, broken relationships and exploitation of persons, pornography and violence — the recognition of individual sinfulness has waned. In its place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness has arisen which speaks more of revenge than justice and fails to acknowledge that in every man and woman there is a wound which, in the light of faith, we call original sin. Sin is an integral part of the truth about the human person. To recognize oneself as a sinner is the first and essential step in returning to the healing love of God,” John Paul II lamented.


Vatican official says post-Vatican II liturgy could be perfected

By Cindy Wooden, April 27, 2006

Rome (CNS) — Liturgical changes implemented after the Second Vatican Council could be perfected, said the new secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. No one is in favor of making changes for the sake of change or even for nostalgia, said Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the secretary, during an April 27 discussion about the direction the priest faces during Mass. The discussion coincided with the publication of the Italian translation of Father Uwe Michael Lang’s book, “Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer.” The book previously was published in English by Ignatius Press; the text includes a foreword written in 2003 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The cardinal, who has since become pope, said that the Second Vatican Council did not mention the direction the priest faces and the post-conciliar documents only recommended that priests be able to celebrate facing the people.
He wrote that the issue was not over a priest celebrating “with his back to the people,” but rather “his facing the same direction as the people” when offering the church’s most solemn prayer in consecrating the Eucharist.
At the book presentation, Father Lang said his study focused on the history and theology of the priest facing East — the biblically symbolic direction of the Lord — and not on the pre- or post-Vatican II liturgy. “The idea of my book is to demonstrate that the priest is not turning his back on the people, but leading the people in prayer toward the Lord,” he said. “I think it would be a good idea to reintroduce this idea into the liturgy little by little, without a great revolution,” he said, adding that he was speaking only about the moments during the Mass when the priest, on behalf of the people, is praying to God, not when he is addressing the people assembled.

Archbishop Patabendige Don was asked if Pope Benedict had ordered a study of the issue or if the congregation was moving in that direction. “For the moment,” the archbishop said, “there is nothing, but we listen to the opinions and experience of people who are interested in these questions.”
While Archbishop Patabendige Don said he was convinced Catholics need help recovering the sense of mystery and of God’s transcendence in the liturgy, careful study is needed on specific ideas. “Things done in a hurry tend not to give the hoped-for results,” he said. Above all, the archbishop said, Catholics must engage in study and discussion in a calm, respectful and prayerful atmosphere “without labeling each other” as traditionalists or radicals. Archbishop Patabendige Don said he does not necessarily agree with people who call for a “reform of the reform” of the liturgy, but he thinks Father Lang’s book contains a valid call “at least for a further perfection of the reform.”


The New Curia of Benedict XVI Looks toward Asia

The new prefect of “Propaganda Fide” comes from India. And the new secretary of the congregation for the liturgy is from Sri Lanka.

By Sandro Magister, ROMA, May 26, 2006




The first public appearance of the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, who was called to this role by Benedict XVI, was the presentation of a book on Wednesday, April 27, at the Augustinian Institute of Rome, a few steps from St. Peter’s Square.
The book, first released in the United States in 2004 with the title “Turning towards the Lord. Orientation in Liturgical Prayer” – which was published this year in Italy – was written by Uwe Michael Lang, a German liturgist who lives in London and is a member of the congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.
But it also bears a preface written by Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a cardinal. As pope, he again met the author, Fr. Lang, in St. Peter’s Square at the end of the general audience the day before the presentation of the book, which he said he hoped would “have an effect.”
One gathers from the preface that Benedict XVI wants to encourage a rethinking of the orientation of the altar, the clergy, and the faithful during the celebration of the liturgy, in the light of the Church’s ancient tradition.
Pope Ratzinger does not intend to introduce sudden changes into the liturgy through the imposition of authority. But it is undeniable that his pontificate has inaugurated a more polished style of celebration, which is very visible in the pontifical liturgies over which he presides.
This is also what one gathers from the presentation of Fr. Lang’s book made by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith in his capacity as secretary of the congregation for the liturgy.
Another test of the pope’s decisions on liturgical matters will come with the document that he will publish before the end of this year, as the capstone of the synod on the Eucharist held in Rome in October of 2005.
Here are Ranjith’s remarks on the orientation of liturgical prayer, which he gave in Italian on April 27:

“Turning towards the Lord”
by Malcolm Ranjith
Fr. Michael Lang’s book “Turning towards the Lord” – which is now being published in Italy – traces the Church’s reasons and practices, since the first centuries, relating to the direction of liturgical prayer.
The book’s objective and lucid approach will certainly make it a helpful tool for those who want to deepen their understanding on the subject. It demonstrates how the orientation of liturgical prayer as established by post-conciliar reforms does not reflect the Council documents, a surprising fact.

In fact, in the preface to the book Benedict XVI, writing when he was still the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asserts:
“To the ordinary churchgoer, the two most obvious effects of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council seem to be the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people. Those who read the relevant texts will be astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council. The use of he vernacular is certainly permitted, especially from the Liturgy of the Word, but the preceding general rule of the Council text says, ‘Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36.1). There is nothing in the Council text about turning altars towards the people; that point is raised only in post-conciliar instructions.”
Sacrosanctum Concilium did not call for foolhardy attitudes in this area, but for an objective and deliberate implementation of the reform. Furthermore, liturgical reform did not begin only after Vatican Council II, but had already been in motion to some extent since the time of Pius X. Both in the process of reform preceding the Council and after it, as the Council itself intended, liturgical changes were supposed to emerge organically, and not in sudden haste. But, unfortunately, not everything went as it should have. And now some are speaking of corrections, or of a reform of the reform.
Leaving aside this reform of the reform, Fr. Lang’s book can be considered a catalyst for further improvement in the current liturgical practice of the Church. Maybe this is the reason why, in the preface, the pope expresses his hope for attentive, objective, and passionate study of this topic. In his view, we must be able to see the positive value in what happened in the past, and listen to everyone, including those who do not agree with us, without becoming partisans labeled as “pre-conciliar” or “post-conciliar,” “conservative” or “progressive.” Objectivity is the key. Benedict XVI affirms this when he says: “The quest is to be achieved, not by condemning one another, but by carefully listening to the internal guidance of the liturgy itself.”
And the Church has always understood that its liturgical life must be oriented toward the Lord, and brings with it a profoundly mystical atmosphere. It is in this reality that we must find the answers.

For this reason, instead of a spirit of “free fall” that leaves everything to creativity and innovation without roots or depth, we must bring ourselves into harmony with the orientation mentioned above, and bring it to full blossom.
The pope affirms the importance of this dimension when he says that the natural direction of liturgical prayer is “versus Deum, per Jesum Christum [toward God, through Jesus Christ],” even if the priest does in fact face the people. It is not so much a question of form as of substance.
Fr. Lang’s book shows how throughout its history the Church has understood the importance of always directing its prayer toward the Lord, in terms of both content and gesture.
In order to grasp the profoundly spiritual and practical value of the Church’s liturgical life, we need not only a spirit of scientific or theological-historical research, but above all an attitude of meditation, prayer, and silence. Those who study the historical journey of the liturgy and strive to contribute to its progress must place themselves in a posture of humbly listening to the evolution of the Church’s liturgical traditions down through the centuries, and of the important role of the magisterium. They must also pay attention to the gradual development of these traditions within the ecclesial community, and arm themselves with a spirit of intense prayer and adoration of the Lord. This is because what happens in the Church’s celebrations of praise is not simply an earthly and human reality. And if these mystical aspects are not betrayed, everything will become a source of edification rather than disorientation and confusion. Arbitrariness, haste, and emotional excitement should have no place in this search. The conciliar constitution on the sacred liturgy affirms this point when it says:



“That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remains open to legitimate progress. Careful investigation is always to be made into each part of the liturgy which is to be revised. This investigation should be theological, historical, and pastoral. Also the general laws governing the structure and meaning of the liturgy must be studied in conjunction with the experience derived from recent liturgical reforms and from the indults conceded to various places. Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 23).
This is why this same conciliar constitution offers clear and stringent norms on who is truly competent to make decisions on liturgical innovations, asserting, among other things, that “therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22).
This great sense of reverence toward what is being celebrated stems not only from the fact of the centrality of the liturgy in the Church’s life, affirmed by the principle “lex credendi, lex orandi,” but also from the conviction that the liturgy is not a purely human act, but a reflection of what is happening, as Sacrosanctum Concilium itself says, “in that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims.”
The liturgy is also that which is given as a gift to the community of the Church, the bride of Christ and the heavenly Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, which are sometimes well-intentioned, there are priests and bishops who introduce every sort of experiment and change, diminishing the sense of the sacred and mystical nature of what is depicted in the Church’s liturgical celebrations. The temptation to become the leading actors in the divine mysteries, and to seek to control even the action of the Lord, is strong in a culture that divinizes man. In some countries, the situation is or is becoming truly dramatic. Every trace of the sacred often disappears in these so-called “liturgies.”

One of the most beautiful of flowers, the lotus flower, grows in Asia. But it grows in the mud. Even though mud is not beautiful, the flower grows out of it and orients itself toward the sun, spreading its petals and imparting beauty to its surroundings. I see a comparison to human life in this. What truly liberates man is not what keeps him immersed in the slime of his weaknesses and decisions, but the capacity he acquires to liberate himself from these and direct his life toward the infinite and toward his Creator. It is not by lowering the sense of the divine to the human level, but by seeking to raise ourselves to supernatural levels that we will succeed in making contact with the divine mystery.

The liturgy is not what man decides it is, but what the Lord brings about within him: an attitude of adoration toward his Creator and Lord, liberating him from his slavery. If the liturgy loses its mystical and heavenly dimension, what will help man to free himself from the mud of egoism and slavery? If the Church does not insist upon the mystical and profoundly spiritual dimensions of life and the celebration of life, who will? Is this not our duty to a world that is closed off within itself, becoming disoriented, insecure, locked in its own prison? If man presumes to understand everything that the Lord does, then it is not God who judges history, but man himself. Is this not the ancient idolatry denounced by the prophets?
The Church, which must reflect the constant presence of Christ in the world, is placed at the service of humanity in order to help it to free itself from the prison of being closed in on itself, to discover its vocation to the fullness of life in the Lord, and to open itself to the joyous embrace of the infinite. Its intimate communion with its Spouse, which is reflected and nourished above all in its liturgical life, becomes the powerful manifestation of the infinite freedom that humanity always has the possibility of reaching through it.
For this reason, preserving and enriching the spiritual mysticism of the liturgy is no longer an option for us, but a duty. If the world falls into the pit of human self-sufficiency, thus becoming more thirsty for the infinite, the Church cannot help but offer the liturgy, because in Christ humanity is raised up into the divine presence. It is not by lowering itself to superficiality that the liturgy will motivate us to reflect the values of the infinite to the world, but by affirming these mystical and divine dimensions more and more. Today more than ever, this becomes a reflection of the prophetic role of the Church as well.
Thank you, Fr. Lang, for this book which will help us to turn our gaze ever more toward the Lord.
The book: Uwe Michael Lang, “Turning towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer,” Foreword by Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2004, pp. 158.

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith on Eucharist Exhortation

April 25 2007, Indonesia

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has spoken with UCA News about the recent apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist and its significance for the Church in Asia. The Vatican released the document, Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Charity), on March 13. That text, whose English version has more than 25,000 words and more than 250 footnotes, confirms the validity of the liturgical renewal prompted by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and endorses recommendations made by the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in October 2005.

Archbishop Ranjith became one of the first appointments of Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia when the pontiff assigned the Sri Lankan prelate to his present post on Dec. 10, 2005. In this position, he is particularly well placed to comment on the exhortation and its relevance for the Church in Asia.

Archbishop Ranjith, 59, studied in Colombo and Kandy before going to the Pontifical Urban University in Rome where he gained a degree in theology. After Pope Paul VI ordained him a priest in St. Peter´s Basilica on June 29, 1975, he pursued higher studies and gained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and a special certificate in Biblical studies from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.




He performed various pastoral and academic duties in Colombo until Pope John Paul II in 1991 appointed him auxiliary bishop of that archdiocese. In 1995, Pope John Paul named him bishop of Ratnapura. From 1995 to 2001, he served as secretary general of the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of Sri Lanka and chairman of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Human Development.

In the latter role, he became deeply involved in searching for a solution to Sri Lanka´s civil conflict. The government appointed him an emissary on peace negotiations with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

Pope John Paul II brought him to Rome on Oct. 1, 2001, as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and appointed him on April 29, 2004, as apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and East Timor.

The following is the interview UCA News conducted with Archbishop Ranjith in early April. When he later reviewed the text, the archbishop supplied detailed notations for documents that he had cited in the interview:

UCA NEWS: How has the liturgical renewal initiated by Vatican Council II been carried out in Asia? What are its positive achievements and negative results?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: Generally, there have been many changes in the way liturgy was celebrated in Asia since the Council. Some of us who were brought up in childhood under the liturgical orientations of pre-conciliar times know what these new changes were and how they affected our life as Catholics.

As your question indicates, there has been a mixed bag of results. Among the positive changes, I see the use of vernacular languages in the Liturgy, which helped to lead the faithful to better understand the Word of God, the rubrics of the Liturgy itself, and a more responsive and shared participation in the celebration of the sacred mysteries.

Adaptations to local cultural practices have also been tried, though not always with good results. The use of the vernacular has at times helped in generating a theological vocabulary in the local idiom that eventually could be helpful to evangelization and the presentation of the message of the Gospel to those of non-Christian religious traditions, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the people of Asia.

Some negative aspects have been the quasi total abandonment of the Latin language, tradition and chant; a far too facile interpretation of what could be absorbed from local cultures into the Liturgy; a sense of misunderstanding of the true nature, content and meaning of the Roman rite and its norms and rubrics, which led to an attitude of free experimentation; a certain anti-Roman “feeling,” and an uncritical acceptance of all kinds of “novelties” resulting from a secularizing and humanistic theological and liturgical mindset overtaking the West.

These novelties were often introduced, perhaps unknowingly, by some foreign missionaries who brought them from their own mother countries or by locals who had been to those countries on visits or for studies and had let themselves be uncritically absorbed into a kind of “free spirit” that some circles had created around the Council.

The abandonment of the spheres of the Sacred, the Mystical and the Spiritual, and their replacement by a kind of empiricist horizontalism was most harmful to the spirit of what truly constituted Liturgy.

UCAN: How is the new exhortation on the Eucharist relevant for the Church in Asia?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: Seen as a whole, the document is for me something that re-echoes in the true sense of the word the reform of the Liturgy as it was understood and desired by the Council. I mean not a rejection of positive developments of liturgical reform in force today but the expression of the need to be truly faithful to what was meant by Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Dec. 4, 1963).

One could, in a certain sense, state that documents such as Ecclesia de Eucharistia (“The Church [draws her life] from the Eucharist,” encyclical “On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church,” Pope John Paul II, April 17, 2003), Liturgiam Authenticam (“Authentic Liturgy”, instruction “On the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy,” Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, May 7, 2001), and Redemptionis Sacramentum(“Sacrament of Redemption,” instruction “On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist,” Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, April 23, 2004) already started the needed adjustments reflective of the indications of the Council.

Sacramentum Caritatis crowns it all with a truly profound, mystical and yet so very easily understandable catechesis on the Eucharist that brings out best the fuller meaning of this most Holy Sacrament. Pope Benedict wants us to understand, celebrate and live the fullness of the Eucharist.

I feel that in the context of Asia such a call should naturally be appreciated, valued and lived. The basic orientations of Sacramentum Caritatis do reflect Asian values like the love of silence and contemplation, acceptance of a deeper life beyond that which is tangible, respect of the sacred and the mystical, and the search for happiness in a life of sanctity and renouncement.

The stress laid on these aspects makes Sacramentum Caritatis a valuable and important contribution towards making the Catholics in our continent live the Eucharist in a truly Asian way.

Which aspects of the document are most important for Asia´s bishops, priests and Catholic faithful?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: From a general point of view, the call to consider the Holy Eucharist as an invitation to become Christ himself, drawn and absorbed unto him in a profound communion of love, thus making His own glorious splendor shine out in us, is truly in line with the search for spiritual mysticism in the Asian continent.





As I mentioned, Asia is deeply mystical and conscious of the value of the Sacred in human life, moving a human being to look for the deeper mysteries of religion and spirituality. The tendency to banalise the celebration of the Eucharist through a somewhat horizontal orientation, often visible in modern times is not consonant with that search. Hence, the general orientation of the document is good for Asia.

Going into details, I would say that its seriousness, the tendency to always accent the deeply spiritual and transcendental nature of the Eucharist, its Christo-centric outlook, faithful adherence to rubrics and norms [nos.39-40], interest in sobriety [no. 40], proper and dignified sense of celebration, use of appropriate art and architecture, chant and music, and avoidance of improvisation and disorder are all reflective of the Asian way of worship and spirituality. People in Asia are a worshipping people, with worship forms that are centuries old and not inventions of any single individual.

Adherence to rubrics in the other religious traditions in Asia is strict. Besides, their rubrics are profoundly reflective of the special role of the Sacred. Thus, the seriousness recommended by the Supreme Pontiff is very much in consonance with Asian ways of worship.

Following the Second Vatican Council, there has been much talk, including among Asian bishops, of the need for inculturation of the liturgy. How has this developed in the Asian Churches? What remains to be done, or is it an open process without a concluding date?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: As the Pope himself states in Sacramentum Caritatis, the principle of inculturation “must be upheld in accordance with the real needs of the Church as she lives and celebrates the one mystery of Christ in a variety of cultural situations” [Sacramentum Caritas 54]. We know that it is a need emerging from both the call to evangelization or the incarnation of the Gospel message in various cultures, and the requirement of a real and conscious participation of the faithful in what they celebrate.

Yet, already Sacrosanctum Concilium indicated clear parameters within which the adaptations of the liturgy to local cultural patterns are to be carried out. It spoke of admitting into the Liturgy elements that “harmonize with its true and authentic spirit” [SC 37], ensuring the “substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved” [SC 38], provided such is decided by the competent ecclesiastical authority, meaning the Holy See and, where legally allowed, the bishops [cf. 22: 1-2]. It also called for prudence, in the choice of adaptations to be introduced into the Liturgy [SC 40: 1], the need to submit such to the Apostolic See for its consent, if needed, a period of limited experimentation [SC 40: 2] before final approval and consultation of experts in the matter [SC 40: 3].

Sacramentum Caritatis follows the same line, that adaptations of Liturgy to local cultural traditions be handled according to the stipulations of the various directives of the Church and in keeping with a proper sense of balance “between the criteria and directives already issued and new adaptations”[no. 54], and these too “always in accord with the Apostolic See” [ibid. 54]. In short, inculturation through adaptations, yes, but always within clear parameters that ensure nobility and orthodoxy.

As for what has been carried out up to now, one cannot be altogether satisfied. Some positive developments are visible, like the large scale use of vernacular languages in liturgy, making the sacraments better understood and to that extent better participated, and the use of art, music and Asian gestures at worship. But a lot of arbitrariness and inconsistency can also be noted, arbitrariness through the permitting of all kinds of experiments and officialisation of such practices without proper study or critical evaluation.

I once was listening to a radio talk given by a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka who ridiculed Christians for allowing local drum beating in their churches without knowing that those beats in fact were chants of praise for the Buddha. This could be just one instance of unstudied absorption of local traditions that are per se incompatible with what we celebrate.

By inconsistency I mean practices we introduce as adaptations but per se are incompatible with our culture, like just a bow instead of genuflection or prostration before the Holy Eucharist, or communion in the hand received standing, which is far below levels of consideration given to the Sacred in Asia. In some countries, instead of introducing liturgical vestments or utensils reflective of local values, their use has been reduced to a minimum, or even abandoned. I was at times shocked to see priests and even bishops celebrating or concelebrating without the proper liturgical attire. This is not inculturation but de-culturation, if such a word exists.

Inculturation means deciding on liturgical attire that is dignified and full of respect for the Sacred realities celebrated, not abandoning them. I feel that the Episcopal Commissions on Liturgy in Asia at continental, regional or national levels should, with the help of experts, study these issues carefully and seek ways and means to enhance the meaning, dignity and sacredness of the divine mysteries celebrated through solid adaptations that are critically selected and proposed to the Holy See for due approval.

A closer spirit of cooperation with the Holy See in this matter would be needed. There is too much drifting in the matter and even an attitude of “who cares?” that leaves everything to free interpretation and the creativity of single persons. Besides, I wonder if there is a sufficient awareness of what the Council itself mentioned on the matter and the guidelines given in Varietates Legitimae (“Legitimate Differences,” instruction, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Jan. 25, 1994) and no. 22 of Ecclesia in Asia (“Church in Asia,” apostolic exhortation on the Church in Asia, Pope John Paul II, November 6, 1999).

In No. 54 of
 Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict advocates “continued inculturation of the Eucharist” and calls for “adaptations appropriate to different contexts and cultures.” What does this mean in Asia?





ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: Asia is generally considered to be the continent of contemplation, mysticism and a deep seated spiritual outlook on life. These orientations may have resulted from or even led to the origins of most world religions in this continent. Any attempts at inculturation of the Liturgy or of Christian life cannot bypass these profoundly mystical orientations typical of Asia.

As Christians, we ought to show that Christianity is Asian in origin and it has an even profounder sense of mysticism within it that it can and wishes to share with others. It would be a pity if we strive to project our faith as an appendix of a secular and globalizing culture that endorses secular values and seeks to represent these in Asia. Unfortunately, sometimes in our way of doing things, we do project such an image. This makes us “foreigners” in our own continent.

Take, for example, the large scale abandonment of the cassock or religious garb by many priests and religious in Asia, even missionaries. They hardly understood that in Asian culture, persons dedicated to God or religion are always visible in his or her own garb, like the Buddhist monk or the Hindu sannyasi (holy man). This shows we do not understand what inculturation truly means. Often enough, it is limited to a dance or two during the Holy Mass or sprinkling of flowers, the arathi [arati] or beating a drum.

In mind and heart, however, we follow secular ways and values. If we are truly Asian, we should focus more attention on the mysticism of Jesus, His message of salvation, the great value of prayer, contemplation, detachment, simplicity of life, devoutness and reflection and the value of silence, and forms of liturgical celebration that focus great attention on the Sacred and the Transcendent. We Asians cannot be secularists who do not see anything beyond the visible and the tangible.

So too in Liturgy, instead of concentrating on just a few exterior gestures of cosmetic value, we should focus on the accentuation of the mystical and the spiritual riches conveyed to us, and highlight these more and more even in our dress and behavior. The Universal Church would gain from a Church in Asia that becomes a tangible expression of Christian mysticism in an Asian way.

Regarding inculturation, Pope Benedict encourages episcopal conferences to “strive to maintain a proper balance between criteria and directives already issued and new adaptations, always in accord with the Apostolic See.” Are bishops´ conferences in Asia working along these lines?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: Generally, I notice a lot of goodwill on the part of the Episcopal Conferences in this matter. However, there are problems too. As I mentioned, it may be better to have a clear spirit of coordination between the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences) and our Congregation in this matter. The FABC does have regional coordinating bodies for human development, evangelization, inculturation, ecumenism and dialogue, education, social communication, etc., but I am not aware of such a body for liturgy and worship. Establishing such a regional body would certainly help.

Liturgy is important, for “lex orandi, lex credendi” (the law of prayer is the law of belief). It would then be able to animate and provide quality, meaning and proper awareness to the national Episcopal Commissions for Liturgy on this all important component of ecclesial life. A lot of work still needs to be done in order to achieve better results.

The “proper balance” about which the Holy Father speaks is due to the need to ensure, on one side, a healthy spirit of openness to inculturation in the liturgy, and, on the other, the need to safeguard the universal character of Catholic liturgy, a treasure handed down to the Church by its bi-millennial tradition.

Can you give a concrete example of what “maintaining a proper balance between criteria and directives and new adaptations” means?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: By “proper balance,” the Holy Father means, on one side, faithfulness to the Universal and Catholic Tradition of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, enshrined in the Roman rite itself, and, on the other, the space provided in Sacrosanctum Concilium and Varietates Legitimae for adaptations. As No. 21 of Sacrosanctum Concilium indicates, there are “unchangeable elements divinely instituted” and “elements subject to change” in the Liturgy. Only the latter may be changed, and even that is to be done on the basis of norms that the Council itself laid out in the third chapter of the same document.

In the case of the Eucharist, it is the same approach. The Eucharist is not what the Church made but what has been the Lord´s own gift to us, a treasure to be guarded. Hence, even though exigencies of Evangelization and of the Inculturation of the Gospel message in various situations demands a certain amount of diversity, this is not to be left to the whims and fancies of the individual celebrant. The areas open to diversity are limited and pertain to language, music and singing, gestures and postures, art and processions [SC 39]. In these areas, adaptation is possible and should be undertaken after proper study, due approval of the bishops and then the consent of the Apostolic See [SC: Ch. III].

Thus, the sense of balance between safeguarding the essentials and seeking to integrate local cultural elements is very much needed if the Church is to profit spiritually. At the same time, I would hold more essential not only adaptations of that type but the noble and dignified celebration of every liturgical act, making it reflect the mysticism of the East. It would be more helpful than just a series of external adaptations, even those introduced following established procedures.

Besides, the love of silence, a contemplative atmosphere, chant and singing reflective of the divine mystery celebrated on the altar, sober and decorous attire, and art and architecture reflective of the nobility of the Sacred places and objects, are all Asian values often reflected in places of worship of other religions and more expressive of a truly Asian outlook on Liturgy.





In no. 87 of the exhortation, the pope expresses concern about “grave difficulties” facing Christian communities “where Christians are a minority or where they are denied religious freedom” and where “simply going to Church represents a heroic witness that can result in marginalization or violence.” Is he referring to Christian communities in Asia?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: The Holy Father is expressing his appreciation and encouragement of the heroic witness of some Christians for whom the practice of faith brings with it hardship, persecution and suffering. When we talk of such difficult situations, it does refer directly to places where there is explicit obstruction and persecution of the Christian communities. Such harassment is motivated at times by political factors, at other times by religious factors.

Some countries seek to impose or establish state sponsored “churches” to control the Catholic community that way. This latter type of attitude seeks to cut off the hierarchical bonds between these churches and the one of Peter in order to weaken them from within. Such attempts are not so successful, as the spiritual bonds, which cannot be broken that way, continue to link each ecclesial community to the Universal Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

For me, however, another type of situation is more prevalent. It is generally common in Asia where, due to the predominance of one or the other world religion, there are restrictions and controls indirectly placed on the Catholic Church. In such situations, there exists an even worse form of undeclared harassment of Catholics. Missionaries are disallowed, it is difficult to construct ecclesial buildings as no permission for such is granted, public manifestations of faith are controlled, restrictions are placed on Catholic education, laws against conversion are put into force or proposed, and all kinds of discriminating acts are perpetrated. In short, in such situations one needs true heroism to profess and practice one´s faith.

I would not name these countries as such, for obvious reasons, but the world knows who they are. Given this situation, the call of the Supreme Pontiff, “for greater religious freedom in every nation so that Christians, as well as followers of other religions, can freely express their convictions, both as individuals and as communities” [SC 87] is timely indeed.

In no. 62 of the exhortation, the pope suggests that celebration of Mass in Latin and use of Gregorian chant could be done on some occasions and in parts of the liturgy. What do you think Catholics in Asia feel about this? Have you detected a desire for the Mass in Latin among Catholics in Asia?

Sacrosanctum Concilium
 never advocated total abandonment of Latin or of Gregorian chant. It stated that “the use of the Latin language, except when a particular law prescribed otherwise, is to be preserved in the Latin rites… But since the use of the vernacular … may frequently be of great advantage to the people a wider use may be made of it especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and chants” [SC 36: 1-2]. Besides, it wished that “a suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular in Masses which are celebrated with the people, especially in the readings and ´the common prayer´, and also as local conditions may warrant, in those parts which pertain to the people” [SC 54].

In the same passage, the Council wished that care be taken to “ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them”[ibid.].

The point is that the vernacular is not the normal language of the Liturgy for Sacrosanctum Concilium but Latin, with permission being granted for the vernacular to be used in specific areas such as the readings, some prayers and chants and parts that pertain to the people. What is remarkable is that it advocates the use of Latin even in “those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them”[SC 54].

Unfortunately, a quasi-total abandonment of Latin took place almost everywhere soon after the Council, so only the older generation of Catholics in Asia has an idea of the use of Latin in the liturgy and of Gregorian chant. With a strong vernacularisation of the Liturgy and of seminary formation, the use of Latin did almost completely disappear from most of Asia. This is rather unfortunate.

I am not sure if there is a marked yearning for a return of Latin in the Liturgy in Asia. I hope it would be so. Some Catholics who are aware of the beauty of Latin do express such a desire. They have seen or come to experience Liturgies celebrated in Latin in Rome or elsewhere and are fascinated by it. Others are fascinated by the old Latin rite, the Pius V Mass now being celebrated in some places of Asia.

But the larger portion of Asian Catholics is still unaware of the value of Latin in the Holy Mass. I wonder what they would say if some form of Latin is reintroduced. They might like it and, knowing the spirit of devotion that Asian Catholics carry within themselves, it would certainly help deepen their faith even further. Our people know that not all divine realities are within the reach of human understanding and that there should be room for some sense of spiritual mystery in worship.

Besides, it would be good for the Church in Asia not to remain cut off from new trends emerging universally, one of which is a fresh appreciation of the Church’s bi-millennial Latin heritage. This is not to say we ought to abandon the vernacular and embrace Latin in toto. A sound and sober use of Latin as well as the vernacular, on the lines of Sacrosanctum Concilium, would be a gain for all. Besides, in Asia some other religions have preserved an official “liturgical” language, like Sanskrit for Hinduism and Pali for Buddhism. These are not spoken languages but are used only in worship. Are they not teaching us a lesson that a “liturgical language” which is not in common use can better express an inner mysticism of the “Sacred” in worship?

The Pope wants “future priests” to learn Latin in seminaries, so as to read Latin texts and sing Gregorian chant. How do you think young Asians studying for the priesthood regard that call? Will Asia´s seminaries welcome it?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: There is no question of a welcoming. I think it is a need, and rather than falling into a well of isolationist narrow mindedness or a purely empiricist approach to faith that, by the way, is not Asian and does not leave room for an understanding of that which is transcendent, our priests and seminarians should be encouraged to open out to




the wider reality of their faith, which is Catholic and Universal, its bi-millennial roots and development and its mystical and sacred dimensions. And since Latin has been at the very root of much of the developments in Theology, Liturgy, and ecclesial discipline all along, seminarians and priests should be encouraged to learn and use it.

This would help the Church in Asia not only to grasp better the content of the depositum fidei (deposit of faith) and its development, but also discover a theological language of its own, capable of presenting the faith to the peoples of Asia convincingly [cfr. Ecclesia in Asia 20]. Learning Latin is in no way a going backward but, on the contrary, going forward. Only thus could a truly profound process of inculturation take place. Any so-called theology not rooted in the fonts of Sacred Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church, prayed on one´s knees and illumined by the light of a holy life is but empty noise-making and would lead only to disorder and confusion.

The same is true of Liturgy. Latin is the ordinary liturgical language of the Church. In the origin and development of the Roman rite, it had a major role to play. Thus, a sufficient knowledge of this language would facilitate a better under-standing and appreciation of the beauty of what is celebrated. As the Holy Father stated, “the beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery; it is a sublime expression of God´s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth” [SC. 35].

Celebrating in Latin thus would help build a sense of awe and respect as well as a profound spiritual link with what the Lord himself inspired the Church to assume as its form of worship. This openness to Latin would also help the students appreciate better the role of Gregorian chant in the Church. The Holy Father wishes that it “be suitably esteemed and employed” as it is the “chant proper to the Roman liturgy” [SC. 42]. Learning the simplicity and beauty of this great body of chant would also help musically talented priests and seminarians in Asia to be inspired by it and be able to compose dignified and prayerful chant forms that can harmonize better with the local culture. It would be presumptuous to assume that using Gregorian chant would harm inculturation of the liturgy. It could actually be beneficial.

Is there anything else you wish to tell Churches in Asia about the exhortation and how they should implement it?

ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: A careful look at Sacramentum Caritatis convinces me more and more that it is not only a treasure trove of information, inspiration and a truly pastoral yet deeply theological reflection on the Eucharist but, more so, a document that seeks to bring to completion that which was truly desired by the Second Vatican Council and its document on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. The post-conciliar reform of the Liturgy, though laudable in some aspects, had not been all that faithful to the spirit of the Council.

As Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli, a member of the Commission that worked on the reform then, attested: “I am not happy about the spirit. There is a spirit of criticism and impatience towards the Holy See which would not augur well. And then, everything is a study on the rationality of the liturgy and no concern for true piety. I am afraid that one day one would say of all this reform what was said about the reform of the hymns at the time of Urban VIII: accepit liturgia recessit pietas (as liturgy progresses, piety goes backward); and here accepit liturgia recessit devotio (as liturgy progresses, devotion goes backward). I hope I am wrong” [from the diaries of Cardinal Antonelli, April 30, 1965].

We have seen a lot of banalisation and obscuring of the mystical and sacred aspects of the Liturgy in many areas of the Church in the name of a so-called “Konzilsgeist” (Council spirit).

In the last 20 years or so, the Church has sought to set the course of liturgical reform straight and in line with the indications of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Documents such as Liturgiam Authenticam, Varietates legitimae, Redemptionis Sacramentum and Ecclesia de Eucharistia are part of that attempt, and Sacramentum Caritatis, which is a collegial document in that it collects the propositions of the Bishops´ Synod on the Holy Eucharist, is the culminating moment, I would say, of that course of “setting things right.” It truly is a correction of course and should be welcomed, appreciated, studied and put into practice.

The cultural heritage of Asia is deeply religious and conscious of the value of the Sacred and Mystical in human life. So the Church in Asia should welcome this document and its orientations, which are directed very much towards a restoration of the profound values of spirituality and faith into Liturgy most wholeheartedly and take necessary steps to implement its indications as zealously and as faithfully as possible.

This is my wish for the Church in Asia, the continent of mysticism.


Archbishop Ranjith on bishops who resist Summorum Pontificum: “instruments of the devil”

Posted on 12 October 2007 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
(Emphases in red are mine –Michael)

A kind reader sent me this fascinating excerpt from a talk given by His Excellency Most Rev. Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. 

The talk was entitled “Faith, Obedience and Theology” and was delivered at the annual meeting of the
Dutch Latin Liturgy Association
 (Vereniging voor Latijnse Liturgie) in Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands) on 6 October 2007.  Here is a 
news story.

He gave the talk in English, but the person who sent it to me translated it from Dutch.  So, it probably varies a little from the original English, which perhaps someone out there can dig up for us.

Read this, with my emphases.

“The motu proprio Summorum Pontificum on the Latin Liturgy of July 7th 2007 is the fruit of a deep reflection by our Pope on the mission of the Church. It is not up to us, who wear ecclesiastical purple and red, to draw this into question, to be disobedient and make the motu proprio void by our own little, tittle rules. 



Even not if they were made by a bishops conference. Even bishops do not have this right. What the Holy Fathers says, has to be obeyed in the Church. If we do not follow this principle, we will allow ourselves to be used as instruments of the devil, and nobody else. This will lead to discord in the Church, and slows down her mission. We do not have the time to waste on this. Else we behave like Emperor Nero, fiddling on his violin while Rome was burning. The churches are emptying, there are no vocations, the seminaries are empty. Priests become older and older, and young priests are scarce.

NB: His Excellency has made a connection between Pope Benedict’s decision to promulgate Summorum Pontificum and a remedy for ills in the Church, namely, empty churches and empty seminaries. 

Thus, this the Pope’s provisions are willed by God, for they comes from Peter as something for the good of the Church.  They seek the defend the Church and build her up at critical points of attack by the devil, namely, what happens in a church (worship of God and sanctification through the sacraments, especially Holy Mass) and what happens in a seminary (men are formed to be alter Christus). 

Thus, anyone who resists the provisions of the Motu Proprio, aimed at healing these problems of the Church, actually aids the Enemy of the soul and becomes the devil’s pawns.

We don’t have time to waste.

UPDATE: Since the now famous quote from Archbishop Ranjith does not appear in the Dutch translation of his talk on the site I link below, a clarification was made by an eye-ear witness of the event who has posted in the comments (below):

Since I was in the audience, I can testify that the quote is from the talk by Mgr. Ranjith. The text on the website of the Vereniging voor Latijnse Liturgie is a translation from the text that Mgr. Ranjith send prior to his talk in order to have it translated and projected on a screen during his talk. He did however not follow this text completely and made some additions and omissions.

There were 76 responses from readers to this blog.


Mediator Dei – 60th Anniversary – II Ranjith speaks to L’Osservatore Romano

In a special interview to L’Osservatore Romano, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige, remembers the 60th anniversary of Mediator Dei and reminds readers that the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum had a double cause: the need to establish a rapprochement with the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX) and the abuses in the celebrations according to the Novus Ordo.
Translation by Teresa Benedetta):

Summorum Pontificum: ‘Faithful to the Council’

By Maurizio Fontana, L’Osservatore Romano, Issue of 19-20 November, 2007
Sixty years since the publication of Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei, the debate on liturgy is alive and open. The recent going into force of Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” – which allows celebration of the traditional Mass without asking the local bishop’s permission – has fueled a confrontation which has never really died down since the Second Vatican Council.
In the November 18 issue of L’Osservatore Romano, Nicola Bux, referring to Mediator Dei, reaffirmed the importance of a wide-ranging debate on liturgy carried on ‘without prejudice and with great charity’. A confrontation, he said, that should be guided by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacramental Discipline.
We therefore interviewed Mons. Albert Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of that Congregation.
L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO: Let us start with Mediator Dei. Could we summarize its most relevant aspects?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: With that encyclical, Pius XII – working also on the basis of what Pius X wrote in his Motu Proprio “Tra le Sollecitudini” – sought to present to the faithful a theological summary of the intimate essence of liturgy. He dwelt on pointing out its origins and defined it as Christ’s priestly act to render praise and glory to God and, above all through his supreme sacrifice, to fulfill God the Father’s plan for the salvation of mankind. In this sense, Christ is at the center of prayer and the priestly function of the Church.
“The Divine Redeemer,” we read in the encyclical, “intended that the priestly life he began in his mortal body with his prayers and his sacrifice, should not cease in the course of centuries in his mystical Body which is the church.”
Essentially, the encyclical shows that the rite of worship is not ours, but Christ’s, in which we all take part. That is more or less the line that Benedict XVI has offered in his liturgical writings before and after he became Pope: namely, it is not us who carry out the liturgical rite, but in performing it, we are simply conforming to a heavenly liturgical act which happens in eternity.
L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO: Pius XII’s encyclical on liturgy preceded Vatican-II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium by 16 years. What relationship can we find between the two documents? Is there a continuity? And is it true, as Fr. Bux wrote yesterday, that without Mediator Dei, one cannot fully understand Vatican-II’s liturgical constitution?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: One can definitely say that the pre-conciliar liturgical reform begun by Pius XII was an opening for what would take place in Vatican-II.
The fact that Sacrosanctum Concilium was the first document to come out of Vatican II confirms not only the primary importance of liturgy for the life of the Church, but also that evidently, the Council Fathers already had ready instruments at their disposition to proceed to a rapid definition of the issues and the renewal of the liturgy.
One must also remember that most of the experts who worked in the pre-conciliar reform were integrated into the committee that prepared Sacrosanctum Concilium.




In fact, Sacrosanctum Concilium – even with its emphasis on the pastoral concern to make liturgy more effective and participatory – expresses the concept of participation in the celestial liturgy quite well. In a way, this aspect of Mediator Dei flows naturally into Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Even in the formulation of the two documents, we can see a more or less identical scheme of composition. The links are quite clear -Sacrosanctum Concilium continues the great tradition of Mediator Dei, just as Mediator Dei itself was in line with preceding Popes, particularly Pius X.
L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO: So with this continuity, perhaps some prejudices against the pre-conciliar church, and in particular, against Pius XII himself, may be overcome…
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: We can certainly hope so. Moreover Cardinal Ratzinger – in Rapporto sulla Fede [The Ratzinger Report, English ed.] spoke of the difference between a faithful interpretation of the Council and an approach to it that was rather adventurous and unreal, as advanced by some theological circles animated by what they would soon call ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ but which he instead called an anti-Spirit or Konzils-Ungeist.
The same distinction can be seen relatively to what happened in liturgy. In many of the innovations that have been introduced, one can see substantial differences between what Sacrosanctum Concilium textually says and the post-conciliar reforms that were carried out.
It is true that the document allowed room for interpretation and research, but it was not an invitation to liturgical renewal understood as something to realize ex novo. On the contrary, it declared itself fully within the tradition of the Church.
As you pointed out, from Mediator Dei to the Vatican-II documents, the centrality of Christ in the liturgy was always affirmed with clarity and vigor. Has the so-called post-conciliar church been able to embody this?
With this, we touch a sore point. It is, in fact, a practical problem: the value of the norms and instructions given in the liturgical books [the books officially used by the Church for its rites] have not been fully understood by everyone in the Church.

Let me make an example.
That which takes place at the altar is well explained in the liturgical texts, but some instructions have not been taken seriously at all. In fact, there has been a tendency to interpret the post-conciliar liturgical reform as if it intended ‘creativity’ to be the rule. But that is not allowed by the published norms.

So, in many places, the liturgy does not seem to express Christocentrism at all, but rather a spirit of immanentism and of anthropocentrism.
But true anthropocentrism should be Christocentric. That which is happening at the altar is not something that is ‘ours’ – it is Christ who acts, and the centrality of his figure takes away the act from our control, so to speak. We are absorbed – and we should let ourselves be absorbed – in that act, so much that at the end of the Eucharistic prayer, we proclaim the stupendous doxology which says, “For him, in him, and with him”.
So the ‘creative’ tendency I referred to is not allowed at all in the instructions found in the liturgical books. Unfortunately, the practice comes from a wrong interpretation of the Council texts or perhaps an unfamiliarity with them and with liturgy itself!
We must keep in mind that liturgy has a ‘conservative’ character, but not in the negative sense that the word has today.
The Old Testament shows us the great faithfulness [of the Jews] to their rites, and Jesus himself continued to observe the rites of his ancestors faithfully. Therefore, the Church followed such examples.
St. Paul says, “I pass on to you that which I received” (1 Corinthians 11, 23), not ‘that which I made up’. This is very central. We are called on to be faithful to something that does not belong to us, but which is given to us. We should be faithful to the seriousness with which the sacraments should be celebrated. Why should we fill up page upon page of instructions if everyone thinks he is authorized to do as he pleases?
L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO: After the publication of Summorum Pontificum, the debate between so-called traditionalists and innovators has re-ignited. Is there a sense to this?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: Absolutely not. There was not and there is no break between the before and after, there is a continuous line.
With respect to the traditional Mass, there had been a growing demand for it over time, which also became more organized little by little. At the same time, faithfulness to the standards of celebrating the sacraments was falling. The more such faithfulness diminished, along with the beauty and wonder of liturgy, the more some Catholics looked back to the traditional Mass. So in fact, who have been asking for the traditional Mass to be made more easily available? Not just the organized groups, but even those who have lost respect for Masses that are not performed with appropriate respect for the actual norms of the Novus Ordo.
For years, the liturgy has undergone so many abuses, and so many bishops have simply ignored them. Pope John Paul II made a heartfelt appeal in Ecclesia Dei Afflicta, which called on the Church to be more serious about the liturgy. And he did it again in the Instruction Redemptoris Sacramentum. But many liturgists and diocesan offices of liturgy criticized the Papal documents. The problem then is not so much about the traditional Mass, but an almost unlimited abuse of the nobility and dignity of the Eucharistic celebration. And this was something about which Pope Benedict could not be silent, as we saw in his explanatory letter to the bishops and in his many speeches. He feels a great sense of pastoral responsibility.
Therefore, this document [Summorum Pontificum], beyond being an attempt to bring back the Society of St. Pius X into the Church is also a gesture, a strong call from the universal Pastor for a sense of seriousness about the liturgy.



L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO: Is it also a reflection on those who are responsible for the formation of priests?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: I would say so. Moreover, in the face of some arbitrary concessions in liturgy that one cannot take seriously, one must ask what are they teaching in seminaries now?
One cannot approach liturgy with a superficial, ‘unscientific’ attitude. That goes both for those who have a ‘creative’ interpretation of liturgy as well as for those who presume too easily that they are recreating liturgy as it was in the early days of the Church. In liturgy, one always needs careful attentive exegesis; one cannot launch into fanciful and ingenuous interpretations.
Above all, there is a tendency in some liturgical circles to undervalue how much the Church matured in the second millennium of its history. They talk about impoverished rituals, but this is a very banal and simplistic conclusion.
Instead, we believe that the Tradition of the Church manifests itself as a continuous development. We cannot say that one part of tradition is better than another. What matters is the action of the Holy Spirit through the highs and lows of history. We should be faithful to this continuity of tradition.
Liturgy is central for the life of the Church: lex orandi, lex credendi, but also lex vivendi. (We pray as we believe and as we live). For a true renewal of the Church – as Vatican-II intended – liturgy must not be limited only to being an academic study. It should become an absolute priority in the local Churches.
That’s why it is necessary that the proper importance should be given at the local level to liturgical formation according to what the Church teaches.
After all is said and done, the priestly life is tightly related to what the priest celebrates and how he does it. If a priest celebrates the Eucharist well, then one can be sure that he is disposed to consistency (with the Church) and that he indeed becomes part of the Sacrifice of Christ. And so, the liturgy can be that fundamental in the formation of priests who are holy.

And that is a great responsibility for the bishops who, in this way, could do so much for a renewal of the Church.
L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO: An aspect that is not secondary in this debate on liturgy is on sacred art, starting with the important matter of liturgical music. Recently, this newspaper confronted this issue and reported some considerations by Mons. Valentin Miserachs Grau which were hardly reassuring.
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: The Congregation is still studying the document for the new antiphonal, and we have consulted the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music; we hope to come to a quick conclusion.
To sing is to pray twice, St. Augustine has said, and I think this is very true, especially of Gregorian chant which is a priceless treasure.
In Sacramentum Caritatis, the Pope spoke clearly about the need to teach Gregorian chant and Latin in seminaries. We should guard, preserve and value this immense patrimony of the Catholic Church and use it to praise the Lord. But we certainly need to do much work on this aspect.
Of course, there are many songs used in Church which are not in the Gregorian tradition. We have to make sure they are truly edifying for the faith, that they provide spiritual nourishment to those who participate in the liturgy, and that they truly prepare the hearts of the listeners to listen to the Word of God.
In any case, the contents (lyrics) of songs used in Church should be watched closely by the bishop to avoid, for instance, New Age concepts. In this respect, a great sense of discretion is necessary with respect to musical instruments that are appropriate for Church, that they can serve to edify the faith.

L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO: In terms of church architecture, the dialog with the specialists is pretty well delineated. More difficult is that with figurative artists. While some leading contemporary artists appear to be involved in works that interpret sacred themes, they seem to be far less involved when it comes to works specifically intended for places of worship. Is it simply a matter of commissions or does the dialog with modern artists that was so dear to Paul VI need new impetus?
ARCHBISHOP RANJITH: The Council dedicated an entire chapter to sacred art. Among the principles stated is the relationship between art and faith. Dialog is essential. Every artist is a special individual, with his own style of which he takes great pride. So we must be able to enter the artist’s heart with the dimension of faith. It’s not easy, but the Church should find a way to carry on a more profound dialog.
In fact, on December 1, the Congregation is sponsoring a day of ‘study’ at the Vatican on this matter. We hope this will be an occasion to give new impetus to the dialog with artists and to the promotion of sacred art.
(Fr. Nicola Bux on “Mediator Dei” in L’Osservatore Romano

A fairly important short interview given to the French journal ‘La Croix’ (‘the Cross’) by the Sri Lankan Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, on June 25, 2006. The original text is in French and is available at:
The English translation by Austine Crasta of Konkani Catholics yahoo group list.
The Reform of Vatican II never took off

June 25, 2006
For the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, the search for the true spirit of the conciliar reform is necessary.
Interview with Mgr. Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:


LA CROIX: There is a feeling that, for Benedict XVI, the liturgy is a priority.
MGR ALBERT RANJITH: Rightly. When one goes back to the history of the liturgy through the centuries, one sees how much for any man, the need for listening to God and transcendence is important. The Church was always conscious that its liturgical life must be directed towards God and comprise a deeply mystical atmosphere. However, for a few years, one has tended to forget it, to substitute for it a spirit of total liberty which leaves room for inventions without roots or depth.
LA CROIX: Is it that the liturgy became the object of polemic, of debates in the Church, even a factor of serious divisions?
MGR ALBERT RANJITH: I think that it is more of a western phenomenon. Secularization in the west resulted in a strong division between those who take refuge in mysticism, by forgetting life, and those who standardize the liturgy, by depriving it of its function of connecting with what is beyond. In Asia – for example in Sri Lanka, my country – each one, whatever his religion, is very conscious of the need for man to be carried towards beyond. And that must be translated in actual living. I think that one should not bring down the sense of the divine to the level of the human, but on the contrary to seek to lift the human towards the super-natural level, where we can approach the divine Mystery. However, the temptation to become protagonist of this divine Mystery, to seek to control it is strong in a society which divinises man, like in the western society. Prayer is a gift: the liturgy is not determined by man, but by what God gives birth to in him. It implies an attitude of worship towards God the creator.
LA CROIX: Do you think the conciliar reform went too far?
MGR ALBERT RANJITH: The question is not whether to be anti-conciliar or post-conciliar, nor conservative or progressive! I believe that the liturgical reform of Vatican II never took off. Moreover, this reform does not go back to the Vatican II: it actually preceded the Council, it was born with the liturgical movement at the beginning of the 20th century. If one understands the Vatican II decree Sacrosanctum Concilium, it was a question about making the liturgy the entry point to the faith, and changes on the matter were expected to emerge organically, by taking account of tradition, and not precipitately. There were many drifts that made it lose sight of the true direction of the liturgy. One can say that the direction of liturgical prayer in the post-conciliar reform has not always reflected the texts of Vatican II, and in this sense, we can speak of a necessary correction, or a reform of the reform. We must regain the liturgy in the spirit of the Council.
LA CROIX: Practically, how will this happen?
MGR ALBERT RANJITH: Today, the problems concerning the liturgy turn upon language (vernacular or Latin), and the position of the priest, (facing the congregation or God).  I will surprise you: Nowhere, in the conciliar decree, is it laid down that the priest must henceforth face the congregation, nor that the use of Latin is forbidden. If the use of modern languages is accepted, notably for the Liturgy of the Word, the decree clearly specifies that the use of Latin will be maintained in the Latin rite. On these subjects, we await the Pope’s instructions
LA CROIX: Is it necessary to say to all those who followed, with a great sense of obedience, the post-conciliar reforms, that they were mistaken?
MGR ALBERT RANJITH: No, one should not make an ideological problem of it. I see how much the young priests, here [in France], like to celebrate Tridentine Rite. I must make clear that this rite, that of the Missal of St Pius V, is not ‘outlawed’. Should we encourage it more? The Pope will decide. But it is certain that a new generation is demanding a greater emphasis upon mystery. It is not a question of form, but of substance. To speak about liturgy, one needs not only a scientific, or historical-theological spirit, but also an attitude of meditation, prayer and silence.
Once again, it is not a question of being conservative or progressive but simply of making it possible for everyone to pray and to listen to the voice of the Lord. What occurs in the celebration of the glory of the Lord is not merely a human reality. If this mystical aspect is forgotten, everything becomes unclear and confusing. If the liturgy loses its mystical and heavenly dimension, what then can save mankind from selfishness and its own slavery? The liturgy must above all be a way of liberation opening man to the dimension of the infinite.

Yahweh to go from the Mass

August 14, 2008




Citing Catholic tradition and Jewish sensitivities with respect to the pronunciation of God’s name, a Holy See directive has requested that liturgical texts including hymns no longer make reference to Yahweh.




Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, announced the new Vatican “directives on the use of ‘the name of God’ in the sacred liturgy” in an August 8 letter, Catholic News Service reports.

Bishop Serratelli said the directives would not “force any changes to official liturgical texts” or to the bishops’ current missal translation project but would likely have “some impact on the use of particular pieces of liturgical music in our country as well as in the composition of variable texts such as the general intercessions for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments.”

John Limb, publisher of OCP in Portland, Oregon, said the most popular hymn in the OCP repertoire that would be affected was Dan Schutte’s “You Are Near,” which begins, “Yahweh, I know you are near.”

At Chicago based GIA Publications, another major Catholic publisher of hymnals, no major revisions will be necessary, because of the company’s longtime editorial policy against use of the word “Yahweh.”

Kelly Dobbs-Mickus, senior editor at GIA Publications, told CNS that the policy, which dates to 1986, was based not on Vatican directives but on sensitivity to concerns among observant Jews about pronouncing the name of God.

Bishop Serratelli said the Vatican decision also would provide “an opportunity to offer catechesis for the faithful as an encouragement to show reverence for the name of God in daily life, emphasising the power of language as an act of devotion and worship.”

His letter to bishops came with a two page letter from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, dated June 29 and addressed to episcopal conferences around the world.

“By directive of the Holy Father, in accord with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this congregation … deems it convenient to communicate to the bishops’ conferences … as regards the translation and the pronunciation, in a liturgical setting, of the divine name signified in the sacred Tetragrammaton,” said the letter signed by Cardinal Francis Arinze and Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, congregation prefect and secretary, respectively.

The Tetragrammaton is YHWH, the four consonants of the ancient Hebrew name for God.

The two Vatican officials noted that “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the congregation’s 2001 document on liturgical translations, stated that “the name of almighty God expressed by the Hebrew Tetragrammaton and rendered in Latin by the word ‘Dominus,’ is to be rendered into any given vernacular by a word equivalent in meaning.”

“Notwithstanding such a clear norm, in recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel’s proper name,” the letter said. “The practice of vocalising it is met with both in the reading of biblical texts taken from the Lectionary as well as in prayers and hymns, and it occurs in diverse written and spoken forms,” including Yahweh, Jahweh and Yehovah.

Source: No ‘Yahweh’ in songs, prayers at Catholic Masses, Vatican rules (CNS, 13/8/08)



by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
By directive of the Holy Father, in accord with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments deems it convenient to communicate to the bishops’ conferences the following as regards the translation and the pronunciation in a liturgical setting of the divine name signified in the sacred Tetragrammaton, along with a number of directives.
I. Expose?
1. The words of sacred Scripture contained in the Old and New Testament express truth which transcends the limits imposed by time and place. They are the word of God expressed in human words, and by means of these words of life, the Holy Spirit introduces the faithful to knowledge of the truth whole and entire, and thus the word of Christ comes to dwell in the faithful in all its richness (cf. John 14:26; 16:12-15).
In order that the word of God written in the sacred texts may be conserved and transmitted in an integral and faithful manner, every modern translation of the books of the Bible aims at being a faithful and accurate transposition of the original texts. Such a literary effort requires that the original text be translated with the maximum integrity and accuracy, without omissions or additions with regard to the contents, and without introducing explanatory glosses or paraphrases which do not belong to the sacred text itself.
As regards the sacred name of God himself, translators must use the greatest faithfulness and respect. In particular, as the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam (No. 41) states:
“In accordance with immemorial tradition, which indeed is already evident in the above-mentioned Septuagint version, the name of almighty God expressed by the Hebrew Tetragrammaton and rendered in Latin by the word Dominus is to be rendered into any given vernacular by a word equivalent in meaning. [Iuxta traditionem ab immemorabili receptam, immo in (…) versione ‘LXX virorum’ iam perspicuam, nomen Dei omnipotentis, sacro tetragrammate hebaraice expressum, latine vocabulo ‘Dominus’ in quavis lingua populari vocabulo quodam eiusdem significationis reddatur.]”
Notwithstanding such a clear norm, in recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel’s proper name, known as the holy or divine Tetragrammaton, written with four consonants of the Hebrew alphabet in the form (see PDF file), YHWH. The practice of vocalizing it is met with both in the reading of biblical texts taken from the Lectionary as well as in prayers and hymns, and it occurs in diverse written and spoken forms such as, for example, Yahweh, Yahwe, Jahweh, Jahwe, Jave, Yehovah, etc. It is therefore our intention with the present letter to set out some essential facts which lie behind the above-mentioned norm and to establish some directives to be observed in this matter.



2. The venerable biblical tradition of sacred Scripture, known as the Old Testament, displays a series of divine appellations, among which is the sacred name of God revealed in the Tetragrammaton YHWH (see PDF file). As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means Lord.
The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the so-called Septuagint, dating back to the last centuries prior to the Christian era, had regularly rendered the Hebrew Tetragrammaton with the Greek word Kyrios, which means Lord. Since the text of the Septuagint constituted the Bible of the first generation of Greek-speaking Christians, in which language all the books of the New Testament were also written, these Christians too from the beginning never pronounced the divine Tetragrammaton.
Something similar happened likewise for Latin-speaking Christians, whose literature began to emerge from the second century, as first the Vetus Latina and later the Vulgate of St. Jerome attest: In these translations too the Tetragrammaton was regularly replaced with the Latin word Dominus, corresponding both to the Hebrew Adonai and to the Greek Kyrios. The same holds for the recent neo-Vulgate which the church employs in the liturgy.
This fact has had important implications for New Testament Christology itself. When in fact St. Paul, with regard to the crucifixion, writes that “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9), he does not mean any other name than Lord, for he continues by saying, “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11; cf. Isaiah 42:8: “I am the Lord; that is my name.”).
The attribution of this title to the risen Christ corresponds exactly to the proclamation of his divinity. The title in fact becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith even though it is not in fact one of the titles used for the Messiah of Israel. In the strictly theological sense, this title is found, for example, already in the first canonical Gospel (cf. Matthew 1:20: “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.”) and one sees it as a rule in Old Testament citations in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:20: “The sun shall be turned into darkness … before the day of the Lord comes (Joel 3:4); 1 Peter 1:25: “The word of the Lord abides forever” (Isaiah 40:8).).
However, in the properly Christological sense, apart from the text cited of Philippians 2:9-11, one can remember Romans 10:9 (“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”), 1 Corinthians 2:8 (“They would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”), 1 Corinthians 12:3 (“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”) and the frequent formula concerning the Christian who lives “in the Lord” (Rom 16:2; 1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:8, etc.).
3. Avoiding pronouncing the Tetragrammaton of the name of God on the part of the church has therefore its own grounds. Apart from a motive of a purely philological order, there is also that of remaining faithful to the church’s tradition from the beginning that the sacred Tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated.
II. Directives
In the light of what has been expounded, the following directives are to be observed:
1. In liturgical celebrations, in songs and prayers the name of God in the form of the Tetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used nor pronounced.
2. For the translation of the biblical text in modern languages, destined for the liturgical usage of the church, what is already prescribed by No. 41 of the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam is to be followed; that is, the divine Tetragrammaton is to be rendered by the equivalent of Adonai/Kyrios: Lord, Signore, Seigneur, Herr, Señor, etc.
3. In translating in the liturgical context, texts in which are present, one after the other, either the Hebrew term Adonai or the Tetragrammaton YHWH, Adonai is to be translated Lord and the form God is to be used for the Tetragrammaton YHWH, similar to what happens in the Greek translation of the Septuagint and in the Latin translation of the Vulgate.
From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, June 29, 2008.
Cardinal Francis Arinze Prefect
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith Secretary


Back to the Tridentine? It’s Up to the PopeVatican Official Calls for Pastoral Sensitivity

Rome, February 26, 2007 (

Speculation continues as to whether Benedict XVI will issue a document on a possible reform of the liturgy.
The secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, spoke with Inside the Vatican magazine about rumors of a papal document that would loosen restrictions on the Tridentine Mass.
If he were to issue a document “motu proprio” (on his own initiative), Archbishop Ranjith said that the Holy Father will “decide what is best for the Church.” “The Tridentine Mass is not something that belongs to the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre only,” he said. “It is part of our own heritage as members of the Catholic Church.” The Sri Lanka-born prelate added: “It is not so much a matter of the Tridentine Mass or of the Novus Ordo. It is just a question of pastoral responsibility and sensitivity. … “The Church should always seek to help our faithful to come closer to the Lord, to feel challenged by his message and to respond to his call generously. “And if that can be achieved through the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass or the Pius V Mass, well, then space should be provided for whatever is best instead of getting down to unnecessary and divisive theological hair-splitting.”




Current failure

Though noting positive results too, Archbishop Ranjith said that “the post-conciliar reform of the liturgy has not been able to achieve the expected goals of spiritual and missionary renewal in the Church.”
“The churches have become empty,” the 59-year-old said. “Liturgical freewheeling
has become the order of the day, and the true meaning and significance of that which is celebrated has been obscured.
“One has to, then, begin wondering if the reform process had in fact been handled correctly.”
Archbishop Ranjith recalled that the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy does not allow individual priests to modify the Mass.
“In the celebration of the Novus Ordo we have to be very serious about what we do on the altar,” the Vatican official explained. “I cannot be a priest who dreams in his sleep about what I will do at the Mass the following day, walk up to the altar and start celebrating with all kinds of novel self-created rubrics and actions. “The holy Eucharist belongs to the Church. Hence, it has a meaning of its own which cannot be left to the idiosyncrasies of the single celebrant.”
Asked about a return to the Tridentine Mass or just a reform of the Novus Ordo, Archbishop Ranjith said: “An ‘either-or’ attitude would unnecessarily polarize the Church, whereas charity and pastoral concern should be the motivating factors. If the Holy Father so desires, both could coexist.”
As to when or if a document “motu proprio” will be issued, “nothing yet is known,” but, Archbishop Ranjith said, “it is the Holy Father who will decide. And when he does, we should in all obedience accept what he indicates to us and with a genuine love for the Church strive to help him.
“Any counter attitude would only harm the spiritual mission of the Church and thwart the Lord’s own will.”


Stepping closer to the reform of the reform

By Alberto Carosa, Inside the Vatican magazine, June-July 2006
When Benedict was elected a year ago, dissident Catholic theologian Hans Kung described the cardinals’ choice as a “huge disappointment.” But he also said he would suspend judgment and wait to see what the new pontiff did. Now, in an interview in La Stampa on April 13th, 2006, he said Benedict XVI may move slowly, but he seemed convinced that change would come, referring confidently to “the surprises of a conservative” for those who might expect little change to come from his papacy. Kung, who had an unexpected meeting with the German pontiff last September, gave no details about what novelties and innovations he saw in store for the Catholic Church under Benedict. “He is the supreme shepherd who proceeds with slow, small steps,” the dissident theologian contended. “He takes his time and prefers to promote small changes which trigger other bigger ones.”
If media reports are anything to go by, these “surprises of a conservative” may take a direction opposite to the very thing Kung would have hoped for and/or expected. A headline for one, in the daily La Repubblica, a bastion of secularism which may not by any means be suspected of any pro-traditional Catholicism bias: “Church, the battle for the altar, Ratzinger wants to change for the priest to celebrate turning his shoulders to the faithful” (April 22, 2006). This was enough cause for the news agency Adista, normally a mouthpiece of radical Catholic progressive circles, to sound the alarm over the imminent and much-feared restoration of a pre-Vatican II liturgy. “Countermand, brothers: all facing the altar. The debate on the liturgical reform opens up again” (in Adista, May 6, 2006). But what was all the fuss about? These reactions were unleashed by the Italian launch of the book Rivolti al Signore, the Italian version of Turning Towards The Lord, with a foreword by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. This book was written in 2003 by Father Uwe Michael Lang, a young priest and theologian of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in London, who studied theology in Vienna and Oxford and has written several works on patristics. But now that the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has become Benedict XVI, its content is assuming a somewhat different weight and the book is obviously calling fresh attention to the Pope’s interest in liturgical “reform of the reform,” and particularly in recovering the elements of the traditional Latin liturgy. The book was presented by its Italian publisher, Cantagalli, on April 27 in the Auditorium Augustinianum in Rome, just across from St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on the side of the entrance to the papal audiences in the Sala Nervi, and this in a way also contributed to the event being seen by the media as having some sort of a Vatican or a papal semi-official blessing.
In particular, what then-Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in his foreword is that Vatican II did not require the celebration of Mass with the priest facing the people, nor did the Council abolish the use of Latin in the liturgy. Therefore, in the future Pope’s opinion, Father Lang’s book provides a valuable opportunity to discuss the liturgical changes of Vatican II, a discussion possibly resulting in the correction of erroneous interpretations of Council documents and a more dignified and reverent liturgy.
As a matter of fact, these were among the topics which were thrashed out during the April 27th presentation, by a panel discussion which included, besides Father Lang himself, also the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don.

“The almost total disappearance of the use of Latin in liturgical celebrations and the orientation of the altars towards the faithful are the two most typical phenomena of the liturgical reform which followed the Second Vatican Council,” Archbishop Ranjith said. But these changes may not be considered as having been made once and for all. “In a culture which divinizes man, the temptation to become protagonists of the liturgy is strong,” Msgr. Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don went on to explain.



“The liturgical theme focused on the orientation of the liturgical prayer is by no means of secondary importance in the ecclesial reflection, since in it the man turns to the Lord and his life changes.” Therefore, “It’s not by lowering the sense of divine to the human dimension that we are able to somehow grasp the divine mysteries, but by striving to rise to the supernatural dimension,” he argued. “The liturgy then is not something decided by man, but what God establishes in him, an attitude of adoration towards his Creator and Lord, freeing him from his enslavements. If this (the liturgy) loses its heavenly and mystic dimension, what will help man to get rid of the mud of his selfishness and enslavement?” In other words, real freedom does not come from a lowering of divine realities, but from raising one’s heart and mind to God, he concluded, calling for the “Lord not to be made tangible and regulable by a thought and rituals being made comprehensible only to man” (cf. Il Giornale May 1, 2006).
Moreover, he was also reported in as having made it clear that “regrettably, one can see priests and even bishops who introduce any sort of experiments” in the Mass, so much so that insofar as the liturgy is concerned, in some countries the situation “has become or is becoming dramatic” and as a result “any sense of sacredness” disappears.

Archbishop Patabendige Don was asked if Pope Benedict had ordered a study of the issue or if the congregation was moving in that direction. “For the moment,” the archbishop said, “there is nothing, but we listen to the opinions and experience of people who are interested in these questions.”
While Archbishop Patabendige Don said he was convinced Catholics need help recovering the sense of mystery and of God’s transcendence in the liturgy, careful study is needed on specific ideas. “Things done in a hurry tend not to give the hoped-for results,” he said. Above all, the archbishop said, Catholics must engage in study and discussion in a calm, respectful and prayerful atmosphere “without labeling each other” as traditionalists or radicals.
Archbishop Patabendige Don said he does not necessarily agree with people who call for a “reform of the reform” of the liturgy, but he thinks Father Lang’s book contains a valid call “at least for a further perfection of the reform.” After all, he claimed, no one is in favor of making changes for the sake of change or even for nostalgia. And much less so in such a sensitive matter as the direction that the priest should face during Mass. But the fact remains that, as shown by Father Lang’s book, “the orientation of the liturgical prayer in the post-conciliar reforms does not reflect the previous praxis, and this puzzles us.”
In this regard another speaker, Msgr. Nicola Bux, professor of religious science at the Oriental Institute in Bari, reminded those present that “the Congregation for the Divine Worship clarified in 2000 that the position of the altar and the orientation of the prayer versus populum (towards the people) is not an obligation, but a possibility. And the emphasis of the pre-Vatican II liturgy was actually on the celebrant and the people both facing the Lord, rather than the celebrant turning his shoulders to the faithful.”
The introduction of the Italian-language edition of Father Lang’s book drew special notice because the preface highlights the Pope’s desire for a “reform of the reform” in the liturgy, at a time when Vatican analysts are still speculating on whether Benedict might issue a document allowing broader use of the old Latin Mass. But to the extent that this reform restores forms and/or practices dating to pre-Vatican II times, this would undoubtedly be a major step in the liturgical counter-revolution and therefore in the right direction. All the more so if we consider that, as already said, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself made it clear in the foreword to Father Lang’s book that with regard to “the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people,” the faithful would be “astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council.” Whereas the relevant Council texts verbatim says that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, I),” the point about turning altars towards the people, he recalled, “is raised only in post-conciliar instructions.” In particular, “the most important directive is found in paragraph 262 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, the General Instruction of the New Roman Missal, issued in 1969,” he pointed out. “That says, ‘It is better for the main altar to be constructed away from the wall so that one can easily walk around the altar and celebrate facing the people (versus populum).”‘ Meanwhile, in this regard the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has already warned that it’s better to celebrate at an existing major altar than a newly-built one turned to the people.
With Ratzinger as Benedict XVI are we therefore on the eve of a new “revolution” of the altars? This is the question posed by Italy’s bishops’ conference mouthpiece Avvenire (April 26, 2006 online edition). Not really, is the answer offered by the very newspaper, since even the solution proposed by Father Lang is not so “counter-revolutionary,” half-way between a full reinstatement of the old pre-Vatican II Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass: the adoption of a “two track” celebration, so to say, with the priest and the faithful “dialogically” facing each other during the Liturgy of the Word and the conclusion rites, but both turned towards the altar during the Eucharistic prayers, when wine and bread are turned into the Body and Blood of Christ.
In his review of the English edition of the book in the magazine of the Latin Mass Society “Mass of Ages” (February 2005, pg. 23), traditional-minded priest independent of any particular traditionalist congregation, Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro, says that the author should consider the value of common direction also in the penitential rite. “Is it not fitting that both the priest and congregation should turn together to the Lord when they are confessing their sinfulness and their need to be purified?” wonders Msgr. Barreiro, who is in charge of the Church of San Giuseppe a Capo Le Case in Rome for the celebration of the old Latin liturgy. “It stands to reason, using many of the valuable arguments which the author enumerates, that all the prayers should be presented facing the Lord.” In fact, as the author himself aptly put it, “when we speak to someone, we obviously face that person. Accordingly, the whole liturgical assembly, priests and people, should face the same way, turning towards God to whom prayers and offerings are addressed in this common act of trinitarian worship.”



After all, Msgr. Barreiro goes on noting, “if the Mass is principally a sacrifice, the positioning of the priest has to be coherent with a sense of offering.” Therefore, again, it likewise stands to reason that “the person who is doing the offering is facing the one who is receiving the offering, thus, he stands before the altar positioned ad Dominum, facing the Lord,” (as Msgr. Gamber, the respected liturgist, states)”.
Clearly, Gamber himself was in favor of liturgical change and anybody looking to him for an endorsement of the immobilist liturgy of the “Tridentine” era would be disappointed. But the kind of liturgical change recommended by Gamber, as pointed out in the Australian traditional journal Oriens (Winter 2003, Vol 9, No. 1) is a gradual, organic, evolutionary, almost imperceptible development. This middle way between rubricist rigidity and the endless pursuit of vacuous novelty is the mode of change that actually prevailed in the Church throughout the greater part of its history, from its beginnings until the end of the medieval period. “The jettisoning of ancient, well-tried rituals and customs in favor of an unceasing round of innovation and experimentation has produced not only a great deal of silliness,” the journal contends, “but real dangers in that constant change in forms of worship tends to instill in the faithful a sense of insecurity which spreads out from the liturgy to the very foundations of the faith itself.”
The liturgist Klaus Gamber has convincingly explained in various publications that the celebration versus populum never existed in the Church. Therefore the argument that turning around the altar was the practice of the early Church, and for that reason should be normative for the Church of all time, is devoid of foundation. As Father Lang put it, “The celebratio versus populum in the modern sense was unknown to Christian antiquity.”
At the book presentation, Father Lang said his study focused on the history and theology of the priest facing east — the biblically symbolic direction of the Lord in a vivid representation of the rising sun as the rising Christ — and not on the pre- or post-Vatican II liturgy. With his book, Father Lang intends to demonstrate that it’s better in itself to celebrate the Mass facing the Lord, using well-researched theological, historical and pastoral arguments.
“The idea of my book is to demonstrate that the priest is not turning his back on the people, but leading the people in prayer toward the Lord”, he said. “I think it would be a good idea to reintroduce this idea into the liturgy little by little, without a great revolution”, he said, adding that he was speaking only about the moments during the Mass when the priest, on behalf of the people, is praying to God, not when he is addressing the people assembled. And today, Father Lang is convinced, “the intellectual and spiritual climate appears to be favorable to the reinstatement of the sacred orientation in Christendom”.
Another and perhaps no less significant dimension to the debate was added by a flamboyant art critic and historian turned MP, Vittorio Sgarbi, former undersecretary of the Italian Ministry of Culture, whose worldly excesses would make him an improbable champion of Catholic traditionalism. If secular intellectuals close to the Catholic Church are called “devout atheists” (like Italy’s former Senate speaker Marcello Pera), he certainly isn’t “devout.” Nonetheless he contended that the position of a celebrating priest can be compared with that of an orchestra conductor (see Il Giornale of April 24, 2006). After having noted that traditionally the Catholic priest celebrated Mass for almost 2000 years in Latin and turned his back to the faithful, except for the distribution of Communion and during the homily, the conductor is in a position to produce wonderful music from a podium and turns his back to the people, except for the initial welcoming address to the audience and when he receives ovations. Whereas nobody ever thought to reverse the position of the conductor, who will ever be able to exactly measure the incalculable damages on the art heritage produced by what the art critic calls “appalling mutilations” of internal structures leading to the destruction of churches’ integrity? Interestingly, after all, the above-mentioned instruction spoke of the “main altar to be constructed away from the wall,” and not for old ones to be demolished for them to re-orientated or replaced according to the new rules. Probably, it was a measure which could have applied to new churches. The fact remains that, according to Sgarbi, hundreds of churches were devastated by the innovations, from the Cathedral of Padua to that of Pisa, with senseless demolitions and reshapings of magnificent and stately altars dominating gothic, renaissance and baroque apses. Therefore he is particularly grateful to Benedict XVI also for his intention to come back to tradition in this regard, thus hailing him with a resounding “Long live the Pope!” Larger Work: Inside the Vatican, Pages: 14 – 17
Publisher & Date: Urbi et Orbi Communications, New Hope, KY, June – July 2006
















MARCH 28, 2001

NOVEMBER 20, 1947

MAY 29, 1969

DECEMBER 25, 1955


APRIL 23, 2004


FEBRUARY 22, 2007

DECEMBER 4, 1963

DECEMBER 4, 2003


NOVEMBER 22, 1903

MARCH 29, 1994


















































Categories: Liturgical Abuses

3 replies

  1. Before reading all of this, I see that it’s a marvelous compendium of critique offered mostly by Cardinal Ranjith. Beatifully done. Thanks much.

  2. Reblogged this on Dominus Vobiscum: Notes from a massgoer's underground and commented:
    Marvelous extended commentary here on the new Mass and its discontents. Dip into this or use it as resource. So well done.


  1. Sri Lankan cardinal carries the ball in Vatican and national matters . . . | Blithe Spirit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


The greatest site in all the land! Testimonies

EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai – 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail:,

EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church

Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai - 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail:,

%d bloggers like this: