Pope Hopes "Complete Works" Get Past Polemics

Recalls Stir Caused by 2000 Book on Liturgy

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he hopes the publication of his complete works will help get past polemics regarding the liturgy.

The Pope affirmed this in the preface to the first of 16 German-language volumes, which was presented Wednesday. The “Complete Works” will contain previously unpublished texts, and range from Joseph Ratzinger’s university years up to his election as Pontiff.

“It would please me very much if the new publication of my writings on the liturgy could contribute to making visible the great perspectives of our liturgy, putting again in their place the small and pitiful diatribes on exterior forms,” the Holy Father writes in the preface, which was partially made available in Italian by Vatican Radio.

The Pope said that starting off his complete works with the theme of the liturgy, as happened at the Second Vatican Council, reflects the primacy of God.

The liturgy, he added, “has been for me the central reality of my life since childhood.” He said it gives the answer to the question, “Why do we believe?”

“God before all else,” Benedict XVI affirms in the preface. “Wherever the gaze at God is not determinant, everything else loses its orientation.”

Seeking calm

The Pontiff acknowledged that to avoid polemics, he had considered removing nine pages from his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy: An Introduction,” published in 2000. This book makes up the main portion of the first volume of the complete works.

Unfortunately, he recalled, almost all reports on the work focus on those pages where he wrote of the orientation of the priest during the liturgy.

Later, the Holy Father continued, he decided to keep the pages, satisfied that his overall intention is clear.

He recognized that his suggestion is gaining ground: “to not modify the structures, but simply to put a cross in the center of the altar, such that both the priest and the faithful look toward it, so as to allow themselves to be drawn toward the Lord, to whom we all pray together.”

“The concept by which the priest and the assembly should look one another in the eye during prayer has been developed only in modern times and is totally foreign to ancient Christianity,” the Pontiff wrote. “The priest and the assembly didn’t pray facing each other, but directed toward the one Lord.

“Because of this, during prayer, they look in the same direction: Either toward the east, a cosmic symbol of the Lord who is to come, or, where this was not possible, toward an image of Christ in the apse, toward a cross, or simply all together toward the heights, as the Lord did during his priestly prayer the night before his passion.”

Moving beyond

Benedict XVI affirmed that beyond “often pedantic questions about one form or another,” the essential intention of this work is to put the liturgy in the framework of the “greatness of the cosmos,” which “embraces together creation and history,” at whose center is the Savior, to whom all of us direct ourselves in prayer.

The Pope admitted that he decided to approve the publication of his complete works after “some hesitation.”

The bishop of Regensburg, Gerhard Ludwig Muller, is in charge of the project. The prelate presented the first volume Wednesday in the Vatican.

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