Pope Francis’ new apostolic letter is about more than ‘liturgy wars’

By Michael Sean Winters, 12 July 2022
Parishioners in prayer during Mass at St Paul the Apostle Parish, Winston Hills. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


Pope Francis’ apostolic letter about the sacred liturgy Desiderio Desideravi, which he issued a couple of weeks ago, is a remarkable document. As he states in the opening paragraph, this is not an exhaustive treatment of such a rich topic, but his insights are profound and speak, or should speak, to us all.

Most of the reporting on the letter rightly focused on its significance for the pope’s earlier decision to repeal Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s initiative that permitted wider celebration of the Tridentine rite.

It is remarkable that so much of the so-called “liturgy wars” are not about the place of the liturgy in salvation history, but about human tastes and stylistic preferences. The pope, instead, gets to the heart of the matter. “The disproportion between the immensity of the gift and the smallness of the one who receives it is infinite, and it cannot fail to surprise us. Nonetheless, through the mercy of the Lord, the gift is entrusted to the Apostles so that it might be carried to every man and woman.”

This understanding of the liturgy as a gift, first and foremost, is what allows Francis to make the simple, straightforward claim: “No one had earned a place at that Supper. All had been invited. Or better said: all had been drawn there by the burning desire that Jesus had to eat that Passover with them.”

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Michael Sean Winters covers the nexus of religion and politics for NCR.

With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.


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