by Bert Groen
In the German speaking world (Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, the greater part of Switzerland and Luxemburg, small parts of Italy and Belgium) several developments are noteworthy.
The first German liturgical book compiled according to Liturgiam Authenticam is the Order of Christian Burial: “Die kirchliche Begräbnisfeier in den Bistümern des deutschen Sprachgebietes.” This book has been granted official recognitio by the Roman curia and was published in 2009. In everyday pastoral practice, however, the translation from Latin into German has turned out to be a major problem. Many priests and others criticize what they call the “clumsy” and “unreal” language. They experience it as “dressed up Latin,” not “real German.” Prominent German bishops, including the conservative Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meissner, who also is the chairman of the German Liturgical Committee, have stated that this book is “a failure” and that a reworking of its language and several other aspects is necessary. Therefore, the book is currently being reworked by German speakers. It will be interesting to see how the Roman curia reacts to this procedure of the German-speaking churches.
To provide a good liturgical book for funerals, the Archdiocese of Vienna issued a manual with formularies for burial, cremation, and other liturgical rites of farewell appropriate to the context of a large city (Vienna has over two millions of inhabitants). This “Manuale für die Begräbnisfeier” (“Manual for the Funeral Service”) from 2008 has been officially approved by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. Its explicit aim is to supply adequate liturgical celebrations that do justice to specific pastoral situations. This service book is widely used, including outside Vienna.
In fact, many priests, deacons and laypersons use other non-official service books which they believe are pastorally better than the official liturgical books. In many Swiss parishes non-official service books and ring binders are very common. In Germany it seems that most priests use the official books. In Austria, it is a mix: some use the official books, some use other texts.
The German Bishops’ Conference recently dealt with the new translation of the Ordo Missae. The bishops meticulously compared the entire text of the current German Missal, which now has been employed for nearly four decades, with the new text produced according to Liturgiam Authenticam. In many cases the bishops elected to retain the current text. They feel that the prayer language, which the People of God are accustomed to, has proven to be right.
At the end of their meeting the bishops of Germany officially approved the new Ordo Missae text, which will be sent to Rome for recognitio. It will be interesting to see how the Roman curia responds to the proposed text. The Austrian Bishops’ Conference and the German speaking Swiss bishops have yet to make a decision on the Order of Mass.
A major change for German speakers will be the elimination of the current rubric permitting the omission of one of the first two readings on Sunday “for pastoral reasons.” This means that now there always be three readings at Sunday Mass – Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel – in the German-speaking world.
In the Dutch-speaking world (mainly the Netherlands and the larger part of Belgium, Flanders), an official committee has only recently begun to work on the new translation of the Missal. In spring 2010 there was a big controversy in Holland regarding the list of officially approved songs for the Eucharist. One of the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam is that each conference compile such a list. The Dutch compilers left out most of the texts written by the famous Dutch writer Huub Oosterhuis. But his hymns are sung in many Dutch and Belgian Sunday services. Many of his texts have also been translated into English and German. Many of the texts by Oosterhuis are “without biblical foundation,” according to the episcopal censors. Most people believe that Oosterhuis’ pieces are profoundly biblical and entirely suited to the liturgy, and that the real issue is Oosterhuis himself. This talented poet is a former Jesuit priest, now married, and he presides at the autonomous “Studentenekklesia” (“student church”) in Amsterdam. He has sharply criticized the Roman Catholic establishment in the past, and he continues to do so.
It seems that the Catholic Church is still struggling to find the right balance between ecclesiastical unity and the diversity of real-life church situations.
Bert Groen is Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Graz, Austria. He can be reached at www.b-groen.org.