The English archbishop at the centre of the storm over the suppression of the old rite says that the Church must return to liturgical unity
Nothing is able to stir up a disagreement in the Church like the liturgy. The recent decision by Pope Francis to re-impose restrictions on the use of the pre-Second Vatican Council liturgy, the “Tridentine Mass”, has sparked a storm of criticism from traditionalists. One commentator recently accused the Pope of espousing “liberal illiberalism”, while even some progressive voices have questioned whether Francis’ tough measures run counter to the dialogue and mercy that are the leitmotifs of this papacy.
The man playing a critical role in charting a steady course through the turbulence of the so-called “liturgy wars” is Archbishop Arthur Roche, the Holy See’s top liturgy official. The 71-year-old Yorkshire-born prelate was last May appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It’s one of the most sensitive and demanding jobs in the Church, requiring him to work closely with the Pope and with the world’s bishops.
I met the Archbishop in his offices in the Vatican where, from the window, you look directly onto the Bernini colonnades that wrap around St Peter’s Square. The aim of his department, he tells me, is to continue the implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. This, he says, is its “Magna Carta”.