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Archbishop Roche: Most Bishops Understand the Need for Pope Francis’ Latin Mass Restrictions

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) – England’s Archbishop Arthur Roche is a key figure in what are casually called the Catholic Church’s “liturgical wars.”

Pope Francis appointed the 71-year-old archbishop prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in May, and two months later the pope issued an apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of Tradition), limiting the celebrations of the Mass according to the rite in use before the Second Vatican Council.

In December, Archbishop Roche published a document answering some questions raised about the “Traditionis Custodes”, placing himself in the crosshairs of some of the most dedicated or belligerent soldiers of these “liturgical wars”.

While church prayer should not be a battleground, Bishop Roche told Catholic News Service that it is understandable that people are passionate about it.

While church prayer should not be a battleground, Bishop Roche told Catholic News Service that it is understandable that people are passionate about it.

“The Eucharist is at the heart of who we are as Catholics; it is the thing to which we bring all that is in us and from which we take everything to support us and help us to witness to Christ in the world in which we live,” he said on January 21 during of an interview in his office.

The Mass also reflects what the church is and believes in, he said, so the rite used is not simply a matter of personal preference or sensibilities.

“I think one of the problems we face today is that we live in a very individualistic world, a very relativistic world, and where individual preference is promoted above the common good and common expression. “, did he declare. “I think that’s a very dangerous thing, and it’s something that as Christians we really have to take very careful note of.”

The Acts of the Apostles (2:42) describes what it means for Christians to belong to the Church: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to community life, to the breaking of bread and prayers.

The Mass also reflects what the church is and believes in, Bishop Roche said, so the rite used is not simply a matter of personal preference or sensibilities.

Bishop Roche said these four elements involve recognizing the authority of bishops in communion with the pope to govern the Church, building unity within the Church, celebrating the Eucharist together, and prayer next to each other.

The four elements go together, he said, and challenge “what is relativistic, what is individualistic within our communities today.”

“It’s not the Pope’s Mass, it’s not my Mass, it’s not your Mass. It’s the Church’s Mass,” the archbishop said. “It’s what the church has decided how we express ourselves as a community in worship, and how we imbibe the books of the liturgy of church doctrine.”

The differences between the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Masses, he said, are not simply the use of Latin, the chanting, the silence and the direction the priest faces.

“It’s not the Pope’s Mass, it’s not my Mass, it’s not your Mass. It’s the Church’s Mass,” the archbishop said.

Promoting the pre-Vatican II liturgy as somehow more holy or prayerful than the current liturgy “is not fundamentally a liturgical problem, it is an ecclesial problem,” the archbishop said. The current Mass, with a richer selection of prayers and Bible readings, reflects and reinforces the church’s understanding of itself as the people of God.

“What was given to us by the council, which classified, concretized the teaching of the Church on itself and its understanding of the role of the baptized and the importance of the Eucharist and the sacramental life of the Church, is not without significance for the future of the church,” he said.

And the bishops gathered for the Second Vatican Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said: “this is the direction in which we are going,” Bishop Roche said. “So ‘Traditionis Custodes’ is really a call to take very, very seriously the unity of the Church, our being together for the celebration of the breaking of bread and prayer.”

Despite “a lot of bluster on the blogs,” Bishop Roche said he was convinced that the majority of Latin Rite bishops and the majority of Latin Rite Catholics around the world understand the importance of praying and celebrating the Eucharist with the same mass.

The differences between the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Masses, he said, are not simply the use of Latin, the chanting, the silence and the direction the priest faces.

Through regular contact with bishops and episcopal conferences, he said, he knows that most bishops have “welcomed with open arms the pope’s call to the council and also to the unity of the Church and are completely behind what the Holy Father says.”

Obviously people have preferences, the Archbishop said. But Catholics need to look more deeply at what they say when expressing these preferences.

“When people say, ‘Well, I’m going to Father So and So’s Mass,’ well Father So and So is just the agent. It is Christ who is active in the Mass, it is the priest who acts in ‘persona Christi’ – the person of Christ, the head of the church,” he said.

“When we go to Mass, even though music might not be something that we personally would choose – and again, that’s individualism that comes into play – then we have to realize that we stand alongside Christ on his cross, who renders everything to the Father through this Eucharist,” Bishop Roche said.

The Mass makes present “all that Christ has done for our salvation; not just for, you know, Jim’s salvation or Mary’s salvation, but for our salvation,” he said. “We are the church. We are not individuals. We belong to a body which is defined by the teachings of Christ which we have received in faithfulness, and which we must, in faithfulness, also put into practice in order to create this unity and to create this harmony.