Liturgy statement from the Philippines

The National Meeting of Diocesan Directors of Liturgy (NMDDL) met in the Philippines last week – Pray Tell reported here and here and here. At the end of the meeting the NMDDL issued this statement in favor of vernacular, inculturation, active participation, liturgical study, and lay ministry.


We, the delegates to the 25th National Meeting of Diocesan Directors of Liturgy (NMDDL), raise our hearts and voices in thanksgiving to Jesus Christ, the Leitourgos of divine worship. For twenty-five years, NMDDL has been a consistent instrument of the continuing liturgical formation of diocesan directors of liturgy. It has created closer ties among the directors and has promoted better coordination between the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy and the diocesan commissions in the implementation of the liturgical reform of Vatican II.

As we look back with gratitude at what NMDDL has accomplished, we look forward to what remains to be done so that the liturgy will become more vibrantly the source and summit of the Church’s life in the Philippines. Hence, we recommend attention in the future meetings to topics like the following:

  • The Use of the Vernacular. While we respect the option to use Latin and celebrate the Tridentine liturgy, we uphold the use of the vernacular in our parishes and communities and recommend translations that faithfully reflect both the spiritual doctrine of the texts and the linguistic patterns of our vernacular languages.
  • Spirituality of Liturgy. Active participation is one of the many blessings Vatican II has bestowed on our parishes and communities. We wish to remind ourselves, however, that active participation should lead to deeper spiritual encounter with Christ and the Church. Hence our liturgical celebrations should foster the necessary environment of prayer and awe in the presence of the divine mysteries, excluding those expressions that trivialize the sacred celebration.
  • Liturgical Inculturation. The interest in recent times to revive the Tridentine Liturgy should not draw the attention, especially of the Church leaders, from the unfinished agenda of liturgical inculturation. We are of the persuasion that liturgical renewal, as envisioned by the Constitution on Liturgy of Vatican II, entails liturgical inculturation and that our rich cultural heritage has much to offer to make the Roman liturgy truly Filipino.
  • Liturgical Studies. Sound tradition and legitimate progress are key phrases that express the program of liturgical reform. It is consequently necessary to study the history and theology of the liturgy, be familiar with culture, and be imbued with liturgical spirituality and pastoral zeal for the Church. We, therefore, recommend that those involved in liturgy, particularly the clergy, should be sent by their bishops or superiors to enroll in academic institutions that specialize in liturgical studies.
  • Lay Ministers. Our parishes and communities are blessed with numerous and worthy lay liturgical ministers. However, some dioceses in the Philippines still reserve to male persons ministries like serving at the altar and leading Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest. We believe that we should encourage the ministry of women where it is allowed by universal law.
  • Liturgy Newsletter. Part of continuing liturgical formation of diocesan directors and their collaborators is liturgical information. We request the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy to publish and disseminate regularly through newsletter, in print or by electronic media, recent liturgical norms, guidelines, and other pertinent information on the liturgy.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of NMDDL, we recall the visionary initiative of Archbishop Jesus Dosado who, together with Fr. Camilo Marivoet, CICM, and Fr. James Meehan, SJ, established and promoted the annual meeting. We are in their debt. Likewise,  we remember with gratitude the dioceses that have generously hosted NMDDL and the speakers that shared their liturgical expertise with us. Lastly, we thank His Eminence Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales of the Archdiocese of Manila for hosting NMDDL at this significant year of its existence.

That in all things God may be glorified!


  1. I’m glad that the Diocesan Directors of Liturgy in the Philippines are in favor of vernacular, inculturation, active participation, liturgical study, and lay ministry concerning the Liturgy. Could you image them not being in favor of these? It’s a no-brainer! Perhaps, though, the one area that is most misunderstood is the area of inculturation apart from the vernacular. Videos of what they mean by this would be most helpful.

  2. These recommendations are significantly a breath of fresh air. These, however, need a lot of work of formation and love for meaningful liturgical celebrations. They are indeed very promising if and only if they trickle down to every worship space in the remotest barrio or the most depressed slums in the cities. Sadly, it is my experience that liturgical renewal is the least priority among the clergy in the Philippines considering the extreme poverty of churches. It is my impression that priests are so entrenched in their ‘comfortable’ ways of proceeding. The use of vernacular is a real challenge vis-a-vis the multi-dialects between regions as well as the new translation of the Roman Missal. I have seen more efforts of inculturation in the US rather than in local churches that prefer more of the Roman/Papal style of celebration – thus reaffirming the colonial mentality that runs in the veins of a Filipino. This is so evident in choosing what kind the altar servers wear in rich parishes. It is no doubt that active participation is palpable in their singing with great abandon, yet more is desired for the faithful to shed off the idea that the choir is a source of ‘entertainment.’ Lastly, priests who are sent to futher studies in liturgy always end up teaching in seminaries. In other words, there is still a long way to go for the Philippine Bishops to make ecclesial structures conducive to liturgical growth both in understanding and practice. God help us.

  3. “…to make the Roman liturgy truly Filipino.”

    Not knowing the situation in the Philippines, some ideas and practices that may seem routine in the U.S. may be far from such there. However, I take issue with the quote that I have cited. Is such truly the goal of inculturation? Vatican II decrees, “Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should then be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.” The goal should not be national/cultural distinctiveness for its own sake but to make useful or necessary adaptions for the communities’ benefit. Perhaps the NMDDL meant the latter, but it expressed itself poorly. The goal should not be to to use the liturgy as an expression of national or cultural identity.

  4. There’s a long way to go. In poorer areas, liturgy is less of a priority than helping parents get children fed, clothed and educated. What’s an overwhelmed bishop or parish priest to do? First things first.

    The Philippine Church has done well, considering. In churches in cities and towns, every Sunday Mass is filled with people, who sing all the songs and hymns they know. It’s less so in the barrios, but they also do try. Filipinos just love to sing. There is plenty of liturgical music in the major languages (Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano), fewer in the others. More composers are needed in the other languages.

    It’s the same with the Missal’s revised text. There are not enough language and liturgy experts in all eight major languages. This leads to a point I’ve always wondered about. How can Rome insist on final say-so on the text of the Missal in Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Bicolano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Capampangan and Maguindanaoan? I guess they use Filipinos in seminaries in Italy as consultants. Again, there wouldn’t be enough of them in all eight languages. Further, they would not necessarily be experts in those languages. (Yes, these are languages in their own right, not dialects of each other.)

  5. The bishops have done well, promoting liturgical study. The Paul VI Institute of Liturgy in Malaybalay, Bukidnon in Mindanao and the San Beda Graduate School of Liturgy in Manila continue to provide liturgical education. Their recent graduates are among the most active liturgists in the country. Foreign-trained SLLs and SLDs are few and will remain few on account of the cost of foreign education. Many of these liturgists are actually not in seminaries but in parishes.

    Looking back, we’ve come a long way. Looking forward, there’s a long way to go.

    1. I have a number of Filipino parishioners who are the back bone of our parish! They are faithful, participative and prayerful and very spiritual. They want to be of service to others. Most came here to work in the medical profession. I’ve celebrated a number of their weddings and respect the custom of veiling the bride and groom and tying them with a cord or large rosary. I suspect this is a bit of inculturation, but their parties for baptisms, house blessings and weddings are the best!!! One of our Filipino members who has since moved to Houston produced our stewardship videos! I gave him no advice or script other than our stewardship committee letting him know the theme for the particular year. He’s a nurse, but did this without charge for the parish. Evidently it is a hobby of his, but he should go in business! His videos show that his Filipino background and formation in the Church is certainly Vatican II oriented!

      1. “formation in the Church is certainly Vatican II oriented!”

        Nice. But I had no idea that “being Vatican II oriented” was an option!

  6. They seem to have something of a “bee in their bonnet” about the Tridentine Liturgy. Could someone familiar with the situation in the Phillipines explain this? It sort of sounds like their statement is a reaction to the presence of the EF.

    I’m asking this seriously… is the EF growing in the Phillipines to the extent that the Diocesan Liturgy Directors have to reiterate what are essentially basic and well known principles of VII as though there is some “risk” that the presence of the EF will somehow threaten these advances?

    1. UPDATE:

      Having just read the vision for liturgical renewal from His Eminence Archbishop Jesus Dosado, I now fully understand why the defensiveness of the Diocesan Liturgy Directors. It seems that His Eminence has something very different in mind from what they are advocating.

      1. Yes, His Eminence does have something different in mind than the liturgists – or, as he might call them, the terrorists. (Or are they worse than terrorists?)

  7. From Summorum Pontificum – “extraordinary form” or permission to use the Latin Tridentine Mass that is updated.

    Many conferences of bishops appealed to B16 not to publish SP because of the polarization impact; those who are given special permission going way beyond the spirit of SP, etc. Much of what they foresaw has happened.

    Roy – thanks for your excellent input. Really sympathize with the pastoral and liturgical challenges you have especially in terms of time, resources to spend on “planned” liturgies, music, training staffs, etc. My experience in Guatemala was that it did sink to being the lowest priority.

    Yet, the indingenous languages, music, talent did produce beautiful liturgies (not cathedral style) but community uniting and supporting prayerful sacraments. I never had to contend with folks wanting a latin mass – completely foreign to what they knew, their church experience, etc. Latin requests say more about the European/US church than it does about the rest of the world.

  8. “I’m asking this seriously… is the EF growing in the Phillipines to the extent that the Diocesan Liturgy Directors have to reiterate what are essentially basic and well known principles of VII as though there is some “risk” that the presence of the EF will somehow threaten these advances?”


    The Philippines has more than 70 million Catholics, served by around 9,000 priests and more than 3,000 parishes in 86 archdioceses / dioceses / prelatures / vicariates

    The TLM is celebrated every Sunday under diocesan auspices in a total of 11 locations throughout the country, of which 9 have one TLM every Sunday, one location has it twice a Sunday, and one has three such Masses (including a pre-dawn Mass). Of these 11 locations, only 2 are parishes, one is a chapel within a cathedral compound, one is a seminary chapel, one is a shrine, and the remaining 6 are convent / monastery / school / private oratories. Some of these are not easily accessible to the public. As someone deeply involved in the TLM in the Philippines, I can assure you that there are a lot of requests for the TLM that go unmet, more due to lack of priests than hostility (although this too plays a significant part.) So, yes, this statement is surprising — it’s not as if the Novus Ordo in the vernacular is in any danger of disappearing. Indeed, from my experience as a lifelong inhabitant of Metro Manila, Masses in the local vernacular languages are increasing while Masses in English are decreasing

    1. Carlos;

      Thank you so much for the update. Sometimes those who know me well assume that I am being “snarky” or some such thing, but I was truly serious about this question. This report refers to the EF in such a tone that it comes across as defensive, as though “Yes, this EF thing is great, but look over here! We have the reformed liturgy! Pay no attention to that Latin stuff! We have Vatican II over here…”. It was only a few years ago that a group like the FDLC here in the US or this group in the Philippines wouldn’t have even acknowledged that there ever was a Latin Mass let alone having to implore people to disregard it or dismiss it out of hand. Quite frankly, it sounds a little bit frantic.

  9. “I have seen more efforts of inculturation in the US rather than in local churches that prefer more of the Roman/Papal style of celebration – thus reaffirming the colonial mentality that runs in the veins of a Filipino.”

    What do you mean? Latin, the “Benedictine” altar arrangement, “Roman” chasubles and Gregorian-Toledan chant / classical polyphony are completely unknown in the vast majority of Filipino parishes, even though the Philippines has its own tradition of polyphony (completely forgotten since the ’60’s). Church Music here is dominated by Filipino Jesuits with some borrowings from the St. Louis Jesuits and charismatic music, and the patterns of vesture are different from most other countries (the stole over chasuble, with the chasuble remaining white regardless of liturgical season, and often without alb, is the normal way of vesting for Mass in a lot of Filipino parishes.)

    It is true that a lot of churches continue to have glorious semi-baroque Hispanic sacred art, but this is because this art has become fully part of Filipino identity. In connection with this: one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how some proponents of Filipino “inculturation” interpret Filipino culture to mean “the culture of the highland and Muslim tribes”, instead of actually embracing Filipino culture for what it is, with all its rich Hispanic and American influences. Richly embroidered stoles, Spanish-style statues, sacristans in surplices are not foreign to our culture at all.

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