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The Trek to Liturgical Reform for Holy Week in the Holy Sepulchre Reaches Its Goal

Holy Land Liturgical Reform

24 March 2012

A few months ago, with approval granted by the Holy See after years of intense work, the trek to Liturgical Reform for Holy Week in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre reached its goal. A delicate and demanding task that, with instructions from the Apostolic See, has involved the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land for many years has been completed. The results recently achieved and definitively approved, are the best that could have been desired, given the restrictions imposed by the Status Quo.

The process of making this complete liturgical reform began decades ago, in 1955, because of liturgical modifications introduced for the celebration of Holy Week. The Custody unsuccessfully sought to put the new rites in place in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, due to the time schedules of the various Christian communities in the Sanctuary, regulated by the Status Quo. At the request of the Custody at that time, the Holy See granted an indult for celebration according to the older rite. With time and successive adaptations, a comingling of the old and new liturgies was reached, making it difficult to adopt a well-defined identity.

Since 1986, the Liturgical Commission of the Custody of the Holy Land has been engaged in adapting the Holy Week liturgy to the new liturgical books, the particularities of the site, Jerusalem's own liturgical tradition, and current pastoral needs. The initiative of the Commission has allowed, therefore, the updating and coordination of the rites and of the ordinaries of the new liturgical books to the particular time schedules and spaces that the Custody maintains and protects, with particular care for the rights of the Catholic Church within the Sanctuary. This has been a complex and extremely responsible task accomplished with the direct involvement, besides that of various experts, of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Apostolic Delegate, and the Latin Patriarch.

The Holy Week liturgical reform project, arranged in three volumes - the Missal, the Lectionary and the Offices, - was approved by the Liturgical Commission on 11 March, 1996 in the presence of the Custos. On the 28th of March of the same year, it was presented to the Latin Patriarch and finally, on the 16th of December, it was forwarded to the Holy See.

On 4 March, 1997, the Vatican Secretary of State, His Excellency Cardinal Angelo Sodano, informed the Custody of the of the Holy Land of the ad experimentum approval of the reform, at the same time transmitting a number of modifications requested by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. On the 23rd of March of this year, therefore, Palm Sunday, the new Ordo of Holy Week will be inaugurated.

On 15 February, 2010, having passed several years of necessary trial, the sitting Liturgical Commission informed the Holy See of all the facts in the case, including additions, suggestions and corrections that had matured over the long period of exploratory experience with the liturgical reform. At the same time, the Commission formally requested definitive approval of the rite. A few months ago, on 12 October, 2011, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, informed the Custody of the definitive approval of the Status Quo with regard to the Celebrationes Hebdomadæ Sanctæ in Sancto Sepulcro Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, per Missale, Lectionarium e Officia.

It is an extremely outcome of great value, even more satisfying in this period of preparation for the Pascha of the Resurrection of the Lord, and authoritatively confirms the precious work performed in the liturgical domain as in other fields by the Franciscans in service to the Holy Land, and the harmony that continuously gives breath to the dialog between the Holy See and the Custody in its constant, profound involvement in safeguarding, protecting and promoting the places and traditions that constitute the inestimable heritage of Christianity. In the complex, heterogeneous world that is the Holy Land, the Franciscans continue to be irreplaceably at the forefront of the life of the local Latin Church, attentive guardians who are sensitive to Catholic sensibilities and values in an open and forward-looking encounter with our brethren of other Christian confessions.


Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti

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