In view of the canonization of Pope Paul VI, the pope of liturgical reform, which will take place at the synod now underway in Rome, Pray Tell is occasionally publishing some of his most significant statements on liturgical reform.
Again today a special matter in the Church’s life draws our attention to itself: namely, the undoubtedly beneficial results of the liturgical reform. From the day that Vatican Council II issued its Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, great advances have been made that are in line with the state of things prepared by the liturgical movement of the late 19th century and that fulfill those dearly held objectives for which so many churchmen and scholars had worked and prayed. The new Order of Mass we have promulgated after the long and able preparatory work of the responsible groups, with its new eucharistic prayers added to the essentially unchanged Roman Canon, has yielded special fruit: namely, a wider participation in the liturgy, a deeper, more reflective understanding of the sacred rites, a greater and fuller knowledge of the inexhaustible treasures of Scripture, an increased sense of the Church as community.
The passage of these last years has shown that we are on the right path. Sad to say there have been abuses and an excessive liberty in carrying out norms, although most of the priests and people have used sound and upright judgment in this matter. Now is the time once and for all to cast out the decaying leaven of harmful extremes, and to put liturgical reform we have approved, following the will of the Council, into effect integrally, i.e. by respecting the balanced judgments or criteria that inspired it. (Address to a consistory, June 27, 1977)
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Paul VI, asked by his philosopher friend Jean Guitton why he would not concede the 1962 missal to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers who rejected the liturgical reform:
Never. This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.