Two interviews with Mgr. Ranjith: the Mass of St. Pius V is not “outlawed”

Source: FSSPX News


Mgr. Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, recently granted to the press two interviews concerning the liturgy in which he recalled that the Tridentine Mass is not “outlawed”.  So doing he set himself in radical opposition to his predecessor Mgr. Domenico Sorrentino – who has since been appointed bishop of Assisi – and who was the author of a secret note, revealed by the Vatican observer Andrea Tornielli in Il Giornale of October 22, 2005 at the end of the synod on the Eucharist. The note, which was presented to the pope,  claimed that it was impossible to grant a freer use of the Tridentine Mass because it was abolished. (See DICI n° 123, of November 6, 2005)


To the Press Agency I.Media of Rome on June 22, 2006:

Msgr. Ranjith: The liturgical life of the Church is the specific time when the faithful are given the possibility of entering into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. In the liturgical life the Gospel and the faith become a choice. Faith is not only in the intellect, it becomes something of the heart and leads to an engagement. In the liturgical experience this relationship with the Lord, which is faith, is strengthened and becomes life. For this reason the liturgy is most important. The Council Vatican II greatly desired this renewal, this aggiornamento, in which the faithful understand what they believe or seek to understand it. Thus the liturgy should be the vehicle for this renewal. But, unfortunately, after the Council certain changes were made without sufficient reflection, in haste, in the enthusiasm of the moment, and as a rejection of certain exaggerations from the past. This led to a situation which was the very opposite of what was desired.

For instance…

Msgr. Ranjith: We can see that the liturgy went in the wrong direction. For instance, it abandoned the sacred and the mystic. It created a confusion between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood which is a specific vocation. In other words, there is a confusion between the role of the laity and that of the priests. There is also the concept of the Eucharist considered as a common banquet instead of laying stress on the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary and its sacramental efficiency for salvation. Or there are still other changes, like the fact of having “protestantized” the churches by emptying them… These changes of mentality weakened the role of the liturgy instead of reinforcing it. Such was not the idea behind Sacrosanctum Concilium (Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy, promulgated by Paul VI on December 4, 1963, Ed.) which desired that people participate in the liturgy, that it be more profound, and place them in contact with the Word of God and the meaning of catechesis. This caused other negative results for the life of the Church. Thus, in order to meet the rise of secularism in the world, we ought not have become secularists ourselves. We ought to have delved deeper, for the world increasingly needs the Spirit and interiority. Our abandon of certain aspects made us lose an opportunity. In today’s youth, including young priests, we can feel a nostalgia for the past, a nostalgia for certain aspects which have been lost. There is in Europe a very positive awakening.

What can the Congregation for Divine Worship do in this respect?

Mgr. Ranjith: We want to remind everybody, and especially those with responsibilities like the bishops, the liturgical commissions or the researchers, that these aspects must not be forgotten. We do not say that we must completely abandon what we gained with the Council, like for instance the use of the vernacular, the extensive use of Sacred Scripture… But, while reinforcing what we gained at the Council, we must also strengthen what was acquired in the past.

Does this mean that the pre-conciliar missal of Saint Pius V must be recognized again?

Mgsr. Ranjith: This question is more and more frequent. This also shows that some would like to use it. The Church must be sensitive to such desires, which people do feel, and she should restore some aspects of the liturgy of the past. I do not know whether this should be by an approbation of the missal of Saint Pius V or by a revamping of the present missal (of Paul VI, Ed.). The pope knows all that, he knows these issues, he is very much aware of the problem, he is thinking about it and we are waiting for his directions.

Does this mean that the pre-conciliar missal of Saint Pius V must be recognized again?

Msgr. Ranjith: This question is more and more frequent. This also shows that some would like to use it. The Church must be sensitive to such urge, which people do feel, and she should restore some aspects of the liturgy of the past. I do not know whether this should be by an approbation of the missal of Saint Pius V or by a revamp of the present missal (of Paul VI, Ed.). The pope knows all that, he knows these issues, he is very much aware of the problem, he is thinking about it and we are waiting for his directions.

 - Was the missal of St. Pius V really forbidden after Vatican II?

Msgr. Ranjith: It was never abolished or forbidden. But, because of what happened with the faithful of Msgr. Lefebvre, this mass took on a certain identity that is unjustified.

Does this mean the Church should, in some way, “rehabilitate” the missal of St. Pius V?

Msgr. Ranjith: That’s what we expect, that the pope will make a decision on this proposal. Even if the mass of St. Pius V is rehabilitated, the post-conciliar mass of Paul VI must be thoroughly studied and perfected where this is possible. This is what some call the reform of the reform. If the mass of St. Pius V is approved once again, this does not mean the mass of Paul VI will remain unchanged. We must deepen it more to make it even more beautiful, more transcendent.

 Is there an urgency to make these decisions?

Msgr. Ranjith: When one is in a hurry to make decisions, one can fall into error. We must reflect, and above all pray for the pope and the Church, and listen to what the Lord wants of us. Without emotion but with an absolute objectivity, looking at the past, what we have won, where we have made mistakes and how we can recover these lost aspects. The bishops are called to become pastors loving their people, to become agents of salvation for their faithful, not only a political salvation, but also an interior and profound one. This love must necessarily be expressed in the joy of consecrating oneself to a joyous, mystical and sacred liturgical life. (Interview conducted by Antoine-Marie Izoard)

In the June 25, 2006 edition of La Croix:

One gets the feeling that, for Benedict XVI, the liturgy is a priority.

Msgr. Ranjith: And with good reason. When one goes over the history of the liturgy through the centuries, one can see how important is the need for every man to hear God and make contact with the other world. The Church has always been conscious that her liturgy must be oriented toward God and convey a profoundly mystical atmosphere. For some years now there has been a tendency to forget this, to substitute a spirit of complete liberty that puts great emphasis on invention, without any rootedness or depth.

Would this be why the liturgy has become the object of polemics, debates in the Church, even a cause of serious divisions?

Msgr. Ranjith:I think this is a Western phenomenon. The secularization in the West has caused a strong division between those who seek refuge in mysticism, while forgetting about life, and those who render the liturgy banal, depriving it of its function of mediating between this world and the next. In Asia – for example in Sri Lanka, my country, each person, whatever his religion, is very conscious of the human need to be oriented toward the other world. And that must translate into everyday life. I think one should not lower the sense of the divine to the level of man, but on the contrary, to seek to raise man up to the supernatural level, where we can approach the divine Mystery. Now, the temptation to become a protagonist of this divine Mystery, to try to control it is strong in a society that deifies the man, as does Western society. Prayer is a gift: the liturgy is not determined by man, but by what God causes to be born in him. It implies an attitude of adoration toward the creator-God.

Do you think the conciliar reform has gone too far?

Msgr. Ranjith: It’s not a question of being anti-conciliar or post-conciliar, nor conservative or progressive! I think the liturgical reform of Vatican II never “took off”. Moreover, this reform does not date from Vatican II: in fact it preceded the Council, it was born with the liturgical movement at the beginning of the 20th century. If we pause over the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II, the issue was to make the liturgy the entryway to the faith, and the changes on the subject had to appear in an organic way, by taking account of tradition, and not in a hasty way. There were numerous shifts, which made the real sense of the liturgy disappear from view. We can say that the orientation of liturgical prayer in the post-conciliar reform was not always the reflection of the texts of Vatican II, and in this way, we can speak about a necessary correction, about a reform in the reform. We must regain the liturgy, in the spirit of the Council.

 Concretely, how will this come about?

Msgr. Ranjith: Today, the problems of the liturgy revolve around questions of language (vernacular or Latin) and of the position of the priest, turned toward the congregation or turned toward God. I’m going to surprise you: nowhere in the conciliar decree do you find it said that the priest should from now on face the congregation, neither do you see a prohibition of Latin! If the use of the vernacular is allowed, notably for the Liturgy of the Word, the decree certainly specifies that the use of the Latin language will be preserved in the Latin rite. On these subjects, we expect the pope to give us directions.

Must we say to all those who, in a great spirit of obedience, followed the post-conciliar reforms that they were mistaken?

Msgr. Ranjith: No, one must not make an ideological problem out of this. I remark how young priests here love to celebrate in the Tridentine rite. One must clearly point out 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 orientation toward mystery. It’s not a question of form, but of substance. In order to speak about the liturgy, one must not only have a scientific or historico-theological mind, but above all an attitude of meditation, prayer and silence. Once again, it’s not a matter of being progressive or conservative, but simply to permit man to pray, to listen to the voice of the Lord. What happens in the celebration of the glory of the Lord is not merely a human reality. If one forgets this mystical aspect, everything gets foggy, and becomes confused. If the liturgy loses its mystical and celestial dimension who will then help man to liberate himself from egoism and self-slavery? The liturgy must first be a way of liberation, opening man to the dimension of infinity.

(Interview conducted by Isabelle de GAULMYN)

Update: On July 13, Msgr. Ranjith gave a new interview with Antoine-Marie Izoard from the I. Media agency, a partner with APIC in Rome, where he returned to his declarations to La Croix of June 25.

Q. You recently affirmed in the French Catholic daily La Croix that the liturgical reform of Vatican II had “never taken off”. This words surprised many people…

R. I am surprised, because I did not say that and it’s not true. I meant that the conciliar reform – with the spiritual movement expected to accompany it, with profound catechesis that was supposed to renew the Church faced with increasing secularism – had produced results that are not so positive. The reform definitely took off. Thus, the use of the vernacular language is a positive thing, for everyone in the world can understand what is happening at the altar or during the readings. Also positive is the sense of communion which developed. But these elements have sometimes been a little too accentuated while abandoning certain positive aspects of the tradition of the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger himself, in the preface to the book Turned toward the Lord – the Orientation of Liturgical Prayer by Father Uwe Michael Lang, recalled that the abandonment of Latin and the orientation of the celebrant toward the people were not part of the council.

Q. For some who have faithfully followed the Council your words were surprising…

R. It’s not a question of abandoning the Council, because it has already influenced the Church greatly, as in its opening to the world. But, at the same time, it could be necessary to deepen what we already possess. As the Council said, an ‘organic’ change could be necessary, without the jarring aspects, without abandoning the past. The encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia of John-Paul II (published in April 2003 – editor’s note), and the instruction Redemptoris Sacramentum (April 2004) that he had requested from the Congregation, definitely indicates that something was not going well. The pope spoke at the time with a certain bitterness about what was happening. Thus, one cannot say that everything was going well, but one cannot say either that everything was bad. The reforms of the Council, in the way they had been translated and put in place, have not born the hoped-for fruit.

Q. Concretely, what must be done?

R. There are two extremes to be avoided: to permit every priest or bishop to do as they please, which would create confusion, or on the contrary, to completely abandon a vision adapted to the modern context and to wrap oneself up in the past. Today, these two extremes continue to grow. What is the right way?… It’s good to reflect a moment, to seriously celebrate and improve what we have today.

Q. Should we expect a pontifical document or one from your congregation on this subject?

R. In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy (published in German in 2000, then in French in 2001, editor’s note), Cardinal Ratzinger presented a very complete overview of the question. I think that the pope is very conscious of what’s happening, that he studies the question and that something must be done in order to move forward. He will take measures to show us with what seriousness we must celebrate the liturgy. He has the responsibility to see to it that the liturgy becomes a sign of edification of the faith and not a sign of scandal. For if the liturgy is not capable of changing Christians and making them become heroic witnesses of the Gospel, then she will not have fulfilled her true mission. He who has participated in the mass must leave the church convinced that his social, moral, political and economic engagement is a Christian engagement.

Q. Are liturgical abuses really that widespread?

R. Every day, we received so many letters, signed, where people lament numerous abuses: priests who do as they please, bishops who close their eyes or even justify what their priests are doing in the name of ‘renewal’…We cannot remain silent. It is our responsibility to be vigilant. For, in the end, people are going to go to the Tridentine mass and our churches will be empty. The Tridentine mass does not belong to the Lefebvrists. It’s time to stop the confrontations and see if we have been faithful to the instructions of the conciliar constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium. This is why we need discipline for what we do on the altar. The rules are laid out in the Roman Missal and the documents of the Church. (…)

There follows an account by Msgr. Ranjith on the recent congress of Kumasi (Ghana) consecrated to liturgical promotion in Africa and Madagascar.