Pope Benedict XVI distributes Communion to a nun as he celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The Sacra Liturgia conference
, to be
held in Rome from June 25 to 28, 2013, is an international conference with the
goal to study, promote, and renew the appreciation of liturgical formation and
celebration and its foundation for the mission of the Church, particularly in
the light of the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. The conference is being
organized under the direction of Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, France,
and will feature many noted speakers, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, Bishop
Marc Aillet, Father Uwe Michael Lang, Don Nicola Bux, and Tracey Rowland, among
Dom Alcuin Reid, one of the organizers of
Sacra Liturgia 2013, is a monk of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in the Diocese of
Fréjus-Toulon, France. His major work, The Organic Development of the
Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2005), carries a preface by Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger. This past February, he corresponded
with Catholic World Report about the conference, and reflected on
the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the state of liturgy today,
and the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Now, following the resignation of Benedict
and the election of Pope Francis, Dom Reid has spoken with CWR again about the
conference, which begins in two weeks.
Alcuin, when last we spoke Pope Benedict’s papacy was about to end and the
Conclave had not yet elected Pope Francis. How does this new pontificate affect
Sacra Liturgia 2013 and what it seeks to promote?
In some ways the new pontificate changes very little. Certainly, Sacra
Liturgia 2013 was inspired by the teaching and
example of Benedict XVI and reflects his insistence and that of the Second
Vatican Council that the liturgy is utterly fundamental to the life and
mission of the Church. The Conference will certainly be a tribute to him as
well as a reminder of this reality.
Yet the “absence” of Benedict XVI from the
Chair of Peter is sobering. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, faces many demands
upon his time and energies and we cannot expect him to say and do the same
things as his predecessor. It’s not necessary, either. Every pope does not have
to have the same priorities or do the same things. But certainly, we miss Pope
And this is something that the new
pontificate does change. It’s now clearly up to us to build on the foundations
Pope Benedict laid, to promote authentic liturgical renewal and sound
scholarship as a basis for the life of the Church in the twenty-first century
and beyond, to stand on our own feet as it were. Each of us, as Pope Benedict
himself did in his turn, has a role to play in that renewal to a smaller or
greater extent. We can’t expect the Pope to do everything! Clergy, religious,
laity, and above all bishops, must take up the torch lit (or re-lit) by
Benedict XVI and hand it on. Our conference seeks to facilitate that and
encourage people in this work. Perhaps one could call Sacra Liturgia 2013 a “first step” in building the post-Benedict XVI liturgical
Some have seen Pope Francis’ apparently
different liturgical tastes as a rebuke of his predecessor’s concern for the
liturgy. This is superficial. To date the Holy Father has not spoken at length
on this subject, but it is very difficult indeed to think that there could be
substantial differences between them in such a fundamental theological and
ecclesiological point as the nature and role of the Sacred Liturgy. I cannot
see the Holy Father reversing any of the acts of his predecessor or
discouraging ongoing authentic renewal in the liturgical life of the Church. We
need to give Pope Francis the freedom to get on with what he judges are the
best areas for his attention whilst continuing the liturgical movement given such
great momentum by his predecessor.
CWR: How is
the Conference shaping up? What are the numbers like?
As of this moment there are approximately 280 participants which is close to the venue’s
capacity coming from more than 34 countries across the world. Bishops and
abbots are amongst those who have registered, as are lay men and women, people
responsible for liturgical preparation and formation in parishes and
seminaries; many clergy, religious and seminarians also. It will be quite a
diverse mix, and all the more enriching for that.
Some full and part-time places are still
available, but anyone intending to be present should register now to avoid
Our team has working hard to ensure that
simultaneous translations will be available in the five conference languages
and the speakers have put enormous effort into their presentations. Because of
the generosity of our many sponsors we are going to be able to offer delegates
a world-class conference in an excellent facility in central Rome.
CWR: Can you
give us something of a “taste” of the conference in advance?
Well, it will be hard work. There will be four presentations each morning and
two each afternoon - together with the keynote presentation on the opening
evening that makes 19 papers: in addition there will be two homilies. At the
end of the morning session there will be also be a panel discussion. So there
will be plenty of input from leading prelates and scholars renowned for their
interest and contribution to liturgical questions.
But probably more importantly, we will
celebrate the Sacred Liturgy. “Before we speak about the liturgy, we must
ourselves be liturgical,” as Bishop Rey, the Conference Convener, has said. We
open with solemn Vespers, shall celebrate Holy Mass twice, once in each form,
and then close the conference with Vespers, Te Deum and Benediction.
The Rome-based Schola Polifonica Sacri
Montis will sing at these celebrations and all
participants will receive a hard-bound specially printed book containing the
liturgical texts and chants that will be used, and translations of them into
the five conference languages. Gregorian chant will have pride of place, of
course, but we will also draw on other riches of the Church’s treasury of
sacred music. We are trying to do the best we possibly can, and again we have
to thank our generous benefactors for enabling this.
No conference should lack opportunities for
meeting others. Whilst there are a lot of presentations, the programme has
generous coffee breaks in the morning and the afternoon, and delegates can opt
into the conference lunches. The evenings are free. We very much hope that
those who come will be able to form new friendships that will further the work
of liturgical renewal.
will those unable to participate in Rome be able to benefit from Sacra Liturgia
During the Conference itself news and updates will be posted on our Facebook page and Twitter account. Several
journalists will be present and will file reports. They will make something of
what is taking place available, certainly, but there is no real substitute for
More importantly, the full proceedings will
be published in due course in English, French and we hope also in other
languages. The book should prove to be an important reference and resource in
the years to come.
Conference programme and further