12 May 2022, The Tablet

View from Rome

View from Rome

Since crippling knee pain left him unable to walk, Pope Francis has been using a wheelchair. He is putting papal vulnerability on display in a manner not seen since the later years of John Paul II. The Vatican has already postponed a papal visit to Lebanon that had been planned for next month, and those who have seen the Pope in person recently say his fragile health is all too evident.

For his opponents, the end of the Francis papacy can’t come soon enough. They include a number of those who are trying to roll back the liturgical reforms initiated by the Second Vatican Council. The Pope has said little about this in the 10 months since he issued much tighter restrictions on the celebration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy in the ruling Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of the Tradition), but last weekend he made a striking intervention at a meeting with a group of liturgists.

Every reform to Catholic worship, Francis pointed out, faces resistance. He cited the opposition to the changes made by Pius XII in the 1950s: the relaxation of the rules on fasting before receiving communion, the wider use of Saturday-evening Masses and the sweeping changes to the Holy Week liturgies. “They rent their garments in despair,” the Pope said, likening the hostile reactions to moments of profound grief and fury described in the Scriptures. For Francis, the resistance to the reforms of the Council reflects a mentality that prefers to look backwards.

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