VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A French bishop who began organizing a liturgical conference inspired by the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI months before the pope’s resignation said the new pope further demonstrates the importance of the Mass.
The fact that Pope Francis, known for his great dedication to serving the poor, begins each day by celebrating an early morning Mass with Vatican employees demonstrates his view of the liturgy as fundamentally a service, said Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon.
The Mass is “the most important service the church gives for holiness and the transformation of the world,” the bishop told Catholic News Service April 24 after a brief presentation of his plans for the “Sacra Liturgia” conference in Rome in June.
The conference — which will include celebrations of the Mass in both the extraordinary Latin form and the ordinary, post-Second Vatican Council form — was “inspired by the liturgical teaching of Benedict XVI” and will underscore the importance of “formation in the sacred liturgy and its correct celebration,” Bishop Rey said.
Many of the speakers are known for criticizing what they see as excesses in the way many Masses are celebrated. Some have written that even the new Mass should be celebrated with the priest facing East — which would leave his back to the people — and many believe the faithful should receive Communion only on the tongue while kneeling.
The scheduled speakers include: Sri Lankan Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo; U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature; Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies; and Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Ore.
Bishop Rey said Pope Francis is “a pope of proximity,” who draws near to all sorts of people, and his early morning Mass with employees is a sign that the pope believes that “for a bishop or a priest, the most important charity I can give is to celebrate the Mass.”
“For many people, God seems very far away,” the bishop said. Catholics have an obligation to tell them, “‘No, he is very close to us.’ Each Eucharist is a celebration of Jesus drawing near.”
Bishop Rey said the fact that there is a new pope won’t change the conference program, because the central role of the liturgy in the life of the church remains the same.
The bishop also said he expects Pope Francis “to follow in the footsteps” of Pope Benedict in allowing a wider celebration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy.
“The church has arrived at a balanced position and I don’t think he will want to change this position, which is very delicate,” he said.