Altar Girls Still Have Backing of Holy See

Statement by Bishops of England and Wales

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2003 ( The Holy See is not opposed to girls as altar servers, says a press statement by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales.

According to the statement released Tuesday, the bishops discussed with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments the much-leaked draft instruction concerning abuses involving the Eucharist.

After the meeting, the episcopal conference’s liturgy adviser, Father Allen Morris, summarized the results for the forthcoming December edition of the Liturgy Newsletter.

«Because the text of the instruction is not yet finalized, it is not possible to say for certain what it will contain,» he said. «However, it is clear that bishops [will] remain free to authorize the ministry of altar girls in their dioceses; that the encouragement to Communion under both species, recently re-emphasized in GIRM, is not being withdrawn; and that liturgical dance or perhaps more accurately ‘rhythmic movement’ such as is indigenous to a local culture, most commonly in Asia and Africa, remains authorized.»

GIRM is a reference to the third revised edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

Father Morris, who is secretary of the bishops’ Department for Christian Life and Worship, added that his understanding from the meeting was that «the practice of interpolating dance and other ‘entertainment’ into the liturgy, in ways more common in Europe and North America, continues to be considered inappropriate.»

Bishop Mark Jabale, chairman of the Department for Christian Life and Worship, said: «Cardinal Francis Arinze stated that the reasons these issues were being addressed was because of particular situations in other countries where there were abuses. He said none of that was related to the Church in England and Wales.» Cardinal Arinze is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

Reflecting on leaks to newspapers that altar girls might be banned by the Vatican, Bishop Jabale said: «The stories unsettled people and caused an enormous number of letters to bishops. It was not helpful and, in the end, these things are not going to happen.»

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