“On the liturgy, Francis does not have the same reflexes as some of his predecessors”

The cross : How do you view Desiderio Desideravithe apostolic letter on the liturgy of Pope Francis, published on June 29?

Brother Patrick Prétot: Addressed to the whole Church, significantly dated June 29, 2022, feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, this letter presents itself as a vibrant appeal in favor of the liturgical formation of the faithful. The formula of Jesus at the Last Supper (“I have desired with a great desire”) gives the title of the apostolic letter and not, as is usual, the first words of the text.

It is quite common to hear that, unlike his predecessor, Pope Francis is not a theologian pope and that he is not interested in the liturgy. This document manifests, if need be, that this is not the case, even if in this area, as in others, this pope does not have the same reflexes and above all the same approaches as some of his predecessors. We can even consider that there is a real treatise on the theology of the liturgy according to Pope Francis.

In a time of great explosion of ways of celebrating, when the confrontation between sensitivities can be difficult for many to live with, even when the documents summarizing the synodal procedures highlight the difficulties of the faithful with regard to the current institutions and practices, this letter is therefore a text of great importance.

In this letter, much is said about the unity of the Church. On what does Francis rely to promote this objective?

PPF: The pope offers the Latin Church avenues for a regulation of liturgical life which is not based, as some would no doubt wish, on a strengthening of the disciplinary apparatus, and therefore, for example, on the reaffirmation of a necessary respect of the headings, but on an in-depth training based on an intelligence of the action.

He develops his conception of an art of celebrating whose goal, ultimately, is to be the sign of the joy of the Gospel. For the pope, the true criterion of liturgical life is not conformity to rules, nor a ceremonial deployment with a view to defending the sacred character of the rites, but the capacity to announce the mystery of a God who has revealed in Jesus Christ as a God of tenderness and piety, a God who loves and shows mercy.

What is his vision of the Eucharist?

PPF: This text on the liturgy is resolutely based on a meditation on the story of the Last Supper, and more precisely on the sentence: “I have desired with a great desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer! » (Lk 22:15). There is a fundamental gesture in this very approach: the liturgy is not primarily a set of ritual prescriptions justified by a doctrinal discourse. It is the manifestation of the Gospel in the Pauline sense of the term, that is to say the ritual manifestation of the revelation in Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

The pope repeats in another way what he has expressed many times elsewhere: the Eucharist is not a reward for those who have behaved well. But it is an initiative of a God who gives himself: it is Christ’s desire that comes first. The whole text is under the sign of this primary desire of Christ. And this gift calls for a response of welcome, a response whose paradoxical requirement the pope underlines because to really receive implies an asceticism.

More profoundly, the text expresses an approach to the liturgy that refuses intellectualism without falling into a form of pragmatism that would limit the horizon to concern for accuracy or aesthetics in matters of ceremonies.

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