Reformed canonization rite returns

by Thomas Reese

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The canonization rite reformed by Pope Paul VI but set aside by Pope Benedict XVI has been returned by Pope Francis for the canonization of six saints Sunday. The return of the reformed rite is mourned by Rorate Caeli, a traditional Catholic blog, as a reversal of the "reform of the reform" that Pope Benedict instituted.

"Reform of the reform" was supported by those who did not like the liturgical reforms put in place after the Second Vatican Council.

"The Rite of Canonization introduced on October 21, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI and which was largely based on the Rite of Canonization before Pius XII is now gone," Rorate Caeli states. It was last used in April for the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. 

Benedictine Fr. Anthony Ruff, who is pleased with the return of the Pauline reform, also describes the changes in his liturgy blog, Pray Tell. "The three-fold petitions are now gone, along with the formulae emphasizing the authority of canonizations."

Under Francis, the rite has been further simplified beyond what was done by Paul VI. "The Penitential Act is now omitted, as its place is taken by the rite of canonization," Ruff writes. "The Litany of Saints is shortened and the final petitions to the Lord are gone, which is also a further simplification of Paul VI."

"Once again the obsession of the liturgical reformers with brevity, with making sure that there are no 'useless repetitions,' is back with a vengeance," Rorate Caeli complains. "Now they have got rid of one of the few actual changes effected by Benedict XVI to the Latin texts of the Roman liturgy, and one of those changes that truly betokened a return to liturgical tradition."

Ruff believes that the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff is responsible for the changes. "Remember that Pope Francis replaced the entire membership of the committee of consultants to that office in September 2013."

Traditionalists fear and reformers hope that this particular reversal of the "reform of the reform" is an indication of more things to come, including the appointment of a reformer as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has been vacant since August

You can see the canonization booklet here

Update: Pope Francis has appointed Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah as the new head for the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, which oversees and determines liturgical practices for the global Catholic church. "Proponents of the so-called 'reform of the reform' (that is, those that reject the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms and want to redo them)," writes Robert Mickens, "are likely delighted with the choice of new prefect, someone who has shown a mild interest in their project and the Tridentine Mass. Catholics who espouse the Vatican II liturgy are surely deeply disappointed with the appointment."

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

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