The Mass as Catechesis

Interview With President of Pontifical Institute of Liturgy

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2005 ( When Benedict XVI celebrates Mass he is a catechist, says the president of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy.

In this interview, Benedictine Father Juan Javier Flores Arcas explains to ZENIT that Pope John Paul II’s death and Benedict XVI’s election were «living catecheses» that brought the liturgy closer to the world.

Q: Do you think the Pope will give new guidelines in the liturgical area?

Father Flores: Indeed, we have much hope in the new Pope, who knows and has written on the liturgy. His first steps could not have been better.

The homilies delivered so far reflect it — very especially the homily in St. Peter’s Square at the beginning of his Petrine ministry, a mystical homily in which he commented on the elements themselves of the celebration: the Litanies of the Saints, the pallium and the fisherman’s ring, in addition to the biblical texts of the day.

His manner of celebrating is at the same time a catechesis in act and a praise of the Trinity, the two dimensions — vertical and horizontal — of all liturgical celebration.

Every liturgical endeavor always needs thorough understanding and calls for better formation. Those who analyze it with yesterday’s parameters do not understand today’s liturgy, nor do those who wish to see in it only an ideology of the present. The liturgy is the living tradition of the Church and present proclamation of our faith.

Q: Why are many Catholics indifferent to the liturgy?

Father Flores: I would not call it indifference. The rites of Pope John Paul II’s death and the beginning of Benedict XVI’s pontificate were living catecheses for millions of people. Can one speak of indifference? I wouldn’t say so because the religious and liturgical phenomenon has grown much in recent times and that already is a positive sign.

Q: Is part of this growth the establishment of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy (PIL) Foundation in the United States, of which you are delegate in Rome?

Father Flores: This foundation publishes our programs and activities related to the liturgy. In fact, as its title states, the aim of the PIL Foundation is to make the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy known in the United States, as well as to collect scholarship funds for students who wish to study with us and cannot afford it.

In addition to promoting the institute, the foundation publishes our contents, programs, projects such as liturgy congresses and other activities. The offices are located at 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 1926, New York, NY, 10115, USA. Its president is Abbot Leo Ryska.

Q: Has there been a joint concrete endeavor between Rome and the United States?

Father Flores: Within this plan and promotion, we have entered into an agreement with St. Thomas University of Miami, a strategic place given the prevailing bilingual environment, so that Spanish- and English-speaking students may attend courses there which are accredited by both universities.

We have already held two symposiums in 2004 and 2005, in Spanish and English, imparted by two professors of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy, and we will continue to hold them in the coming years.

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