There are many ways to analyze the address Pope Francis gave today to the Italian liturgy conference, in which he made the blockbuster statement, “[W]e can assert with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”
One point of access is a tally of the sources cited by Francis. While this is perhaps not the most penetrating way to get at the substance of this major address, it is nonetheless illuminating.
By my count, the text itself (in the original Italian) names the following sources:
- Vatican II or the Council: 7
- Sacrosanctum Concilium: 1
- Pius X – 1
- Pius XII – 1
- Paul VI – 3
- Catechism of the Catholic Church – 1
In his footnotes Francis cite documents and texts from these sources:
- Pius X – 3
- Pius XII – 1
- Sacred Congregation of Rites under Pius XII – 3
- Sacrosanctum Concilium – 2
- Paul VI – 2
- John Paul VI – 1
- General Instruction of the Roman Missal – 1
- Texts of reformed liturgy – 2 (rite of dedication of altar, Easter preface)
- Francis – 5
By his choice of what sources to use, and also what sources not to use, Pope Francis has given renewed strength to the narrative which has guided mainline liturgical reform and renewal in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council.
That mainline narrative runs roughly like this:
- Pius X is the great father of liturgical renewal who, at the beginning of the 20th century, called for active participation and set up commissions to reform the liturgical books.
- After a dormant period under his successors Benedict XV and Pius XI, the reign of Pius XII saw a growing flurry of interest in liturgical reform in the years leading up to the Second Vatican Council.
- This activity in the 1940s and 1950s culminated in the greatest moment for liturgical renewal, the Second Vatican Council.
- The liturgical reform after the Vatican II was carried out in fidelity to the Council by the towering father of postconciliar liturgical reform, Paul VI.
- John Paul II, while not showing a strong particular interest in the liturgy, affirmed Vatican II and the liturgical reform without hesitation.
In this mainline narrative, which Francis has affirmed and strengthened, the task in the present day is simply to affirm the Council, to affirm the reformed liturgy, and to penetrate more deeply into the spirit of the reformed liturgy in the ongoing (and never-ending) effort to implement more faithfully what the Council intended.
It is obvious just what, and who, is omitted by Pope Francis in today’s major address.