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B16VISIT-MARINI Apr-7-2008 (970 words) With photos posted April 4. xxxi

Liturgical logistics: Keeping track of details for pope's U.S. Masses

Msgr. Guido Marini, the pope's master of liturgical ceremonies, is pictured at the Vatican April 4.) (CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- From the huge windows of his office overlooking St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI's chief liturgist can, and does, keep track of every detail that goes into preparing a papal liturgy.

The papal venues in the United States are not directly under his nose, but Msgr. Guido Marini still knows every detail of the two evening prayer services and three Masses Pope Benedict will celebrate in Washington and New York April 15-20.

Msgr. Marini, 43, did not plan every element of the five U.S. services, as he does with Vatican services, although he did make suggestions and did have veto power.

In an interview in early April, the monsignor said the readings, the prayers of the faithful, the music, and the readers and servers, for the most part, are those decided by the liturgy organizers in the archdioceses of Washington and New York, who coordinated their efforts with a representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Female altar servers will be involved in some of the liturgies in accordance with local diocesan practice, he said. And, just as at the Vatican, men and women will alternate reading the Scriptures and the prayers of the faithful.

Early in the planning process for a papal trip, the monsignor said, his office sends the local church a set of guidelines, which is "substantially the same" as the set developed during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

"A few small things were modified to reflect the liturgical attitudes of Pope Benedict," he said; they include a request that a crucifix be placed on the altar for eucharistic celebrations, that concelebrating priests be as close to the altar as possible and that the offertory gifts be limited to the bread, wine and charitable gifts.

Msgr. Marini said the Vatican did not dictate the choice of music and hymns for the U.S. liturgies.

"The repertoire is rather vast," he said. "There will be Gregorian chant, polyphony and some hymns that are more popular in the American repertoire.

"I really like this variety of styles that has been prepared for the celebrations," he said.

After the Vatican's liturgical guidelines were sent to the United States, the coordinator appointed by the bishops' conference, Msgr. Anthony Sherman, came to Msgr. Marini's office to discuss the initial choices made in Washington and New York.

"We discussed the liturgies, suggestions were made and decisions were taken," he said.

In February, Msgr. Marini and two of his assistants, including U.S. Msgr. William V. Millea, traveled to the two cities for more discussions, fine-tuning and site visits.

A few more details, such as which altar servers will be where, will be determined during quick run-throughs hours before the liturgies.

Msgr. Marini knows that changes in papal liturgies at the Vatican have been fueling speculation and heated discussions on Italian blogs and Web sites; he insists the increased use of older liturgical elements -- such as Gregorian chant and ancient vestments -- do not indicate a return to the past but rather reflect "development in continuity."

"In the liturgy, as in the life of the church itself, development in continuity should be visible," he said. "There are great riches, treasures that we have received, that we cannot forget, but this does not mean we oppose new developments.

"Those who have preceded us created works of art, not so they would be admired in a museum, but so they would be used," Msgr. Marini said. "Using them today underlines our continuity with the past as we walk toward the future."

As for rumors that Pope Benedict is preparing to celebrate publicly a Mass according to the Tridentine rite, Msgr. Marini said that as far as he knows that is just a rumor.

"My office has heard nothing of this. I know there are rumors, but I have not been asked to plan anything," he said.

The U.S. liturgies will raise an issue Pope Benedict, on more than one occasion, has said is problematic: preserving a sense of prayer and participation at a Mass when there are hundreds of concelebrants and tens of thousands of people in the assembly.

Msgr. Marini said many people at the pope's April 17 Mass in Washington's Nationals Park and April 20 Mass in New York's Yankee Stadium will receive Communion in the form of hosts that will have been consecrated earlier.

He said the practice, while not optimal, is common for papal Masses with a large crowd.

"If a priest were to take the Eucharist from the altar to the back of the crowd, he would not be able to reach the farthest points of the assembly before Mass ended," he said.

Instead, the monsignor said, small temporary chapels housing the Blessed Sacrament are set up at various points near the back of the crowd; a priest or deacon is stationed at each chapel and coordinates the distribution of Communion from that point.

The question of the number of concelebrants "is not simply an aesthetic question, but has substance," which is why it is the subject of ongoing study at the Vatican, he said.

In addition to highlighting the unity of the celebrant and the concelebrants and the bond between the concelebrants and the altar, "there must be a direct relationship, including a visual one, between the words of consecration and the matter that is being consecrated," he said.

The concelebration question demonstrates that although Msgr. Marini, his co-workers, consultants and predecessors have considered and continue to study every aspect of papal Masses they are still searching for perfection, he said.

Nevertheless, the extremely soft-spoken monsignor said, "I hope the liturgical celebrations presided over by the Holy Father may be an example and also provide an orientation for the church in the United States."


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