Conference Calls For Deeper Knowledge of Liturgy

Says It’s Key to Healing Divisions Over Reforms

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By Karna Swanson

OXFORD, England, NOV. 4, 2008 ( Before the divisions over the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council can be healed, liturgy needs to be more fully understood and lived, concluded a congress held at Oxford University.

The one-day congress on «Scripture and Liturgy in the Theology of Benedict XVI» took place Saturday at the Catholic chaplaincy of the university. Nearly 300 attended the event sponsored by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, founded and directed by Scott Hahn, professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The Center for Faith and Culture in Oxford, the U.K. outreach program of Thomas More College in New Hampshire, organized the conference. Stratford Caldecott, director of the center and conference organizer, told ZENIT that «it is no secret that Catholics are still deeply divided over questions of liturgical style and use, many of them nursing wounds that have never completely healed» since the introduction of reforms in the wake of Vatican II.

«Now, with pressure building under Benedict XVI for a far-reaching ‘reform of the reform,’ some fear a new wave of liturgical changes causing further division in a generation that has grown used to the ‘novus ordo’ (new order),» he added. «Such disagreements emerge whenever a public forum is created in which to discuss the question of liturgy.»

Caldecott said the conference’s message was clear: «Before any real healing of these wounds can take place, the nature and meaning of the Church’s liturgy needs to be more widely understood and lived.»


Papers were presented by four speakers: Dominican Father Aidan Nichols, author of numerous books including «The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI» and the forthcoming «G.K. Chesterton, Theologian»; Michael Waldstein, the Max Seckler Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University in Florida; Adrian Walker, an editor of «Communio» and translator of Benedict XVI’s book «Jesus of Nazareth»; and Scott Hahn.

«All the papers highlighted the fact that that the Bible is fundamentally a liturgical book,» said Caldecott. «The canon of Scripture was originally determined by the decision to read certain books at Mass. Old and New Testament both point toward the body of Christ, dead and risen, which is then received in the Eucharist. The homily itself should lead the faithful from the act of listening to the Word to receiving it in communion.»

The conference organizer said after several conference participants spoke, a single thread emerged that all agreed upon: «The liturgy cannot remain frozen, nor can abuses be left unaddressed, but the most urgent need of all is for mystagogical catechesis. Young people as well as old need to become aware of the cosmic nature and theological depth of the Mass.»

Hahn underlined in his address — titled «Eucharistic Kingdom and the World as Temple» — the meaning and beauty of the liturgy by drawing attention to the fact that «we are with Jesus in heaven, whenever we go to Mass.»

Caldecott commented: «Only if this understanding is present will the necessary liturgical changes be understood and accepted.»

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