May 16, 2011

VATICAN CITY — The Second Vatican Council's renewal of the liturgy aimed at changing Catholics' attitude toward the Mass and helping the liturgy change their lives, Pope Benedict said.

"Unfortunately, the liturgy was seen, perhaps even by us pastors and experts, more as an object to reform than as a subject capable of renewing Christian life," the pope said May 6.

Addressing participants at a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Rome's Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Pope Benedict said the purpose for liturgical reform was not about changing texts or gestures.

The pope said the aim of the Vatican II reform "was not principally that of changing rites and texts, but of renewing mentalities and placing the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ at the centre of Christian life and pastoral activity."

The eucharistic celebration, he said, is the way "to reveal and make present" Christ's saving work each day.

Because of that, liturgical reform must be done "in a correct and constant relationship between healthy tradition and legitimate progress," he said.

Pope Benedict said too often Catholics try to set up an opposition between "tradition and progress" in the liturgy.

"In reality, the two concepts go together: In some way, tradition includes progress. "It's like saying the river of tradition carries its source with it as it flows toward its outlet."

Pope Benedict said Blessed Pope John XXIII asked the Benedictines to establish the Pontifical Liturgical Institute to help the Church respond to the "urgency of a reform."

Many bishops from around the world were urgently requesting liturgical reform before the Second Vatican Council, he noted.

But the Church's liturgy, the centre of its existence, could not be changed simply for the sake of change, he said.

"From the beginning it was clear that the theological foundation of the liturgy had to be studied in order to avoid falling into ritualism and so that the reform would be justifiable from the point of view of revelation and of continuity with the tradition of the Church."