Interview with Dom Alcuin Reid about upcoming “Sacra Liturgia” Conference in Rome

The conference, from June 25 to 28, features international experts on liturgy, including Cardinal Burke

Pope Benedict XVI distributes Communion to a nun as he celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24
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)

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 others.

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.

CWR: Dom 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?

Dom Alcuin: 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 Benedict.

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 movement.

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?

Dom Alcuin: 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 disappointment.

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?

Dom Alcuin: 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.

CWR: How will those unable to participate in Rome be able to benefit from Sacra Liturgia 2013?

Dom Alcuin: 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 being present. 

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 information:

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