“Promoting the restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal aims of the Council” (1). These were the first words of the decree on ecumenism of Vatican II. Since then, we have learned the method: dialogue, listen to each other, respect each other. Sometimes accepting your differences, not denying them. Pray together often. We have learned that ecumenism is affective before being dogmatic or legal. We have also understood that the unity of Christians is vital for the very credibility of the Gospel. “It is by the love you have for each other that you will be recognized as my disciples” (Jn 13, 35).
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Perhaps Benedict XVI had it in mind when he wanted to put an end to the internal division of Catholics around the liturgy born of the Council. Rather than legal or dogmatic arguments, he proposed a dialogue. We had to mutually enriching each other. This presupposed putting an end to the fratricidal liturgical war which had so divided the Christian communities. From now on, he asked us to listen to each other, to dialogue. Did we do it? Certainly not enough. We sometimes lived side by side as strangers, replacing brotherly enrichment with mutual ignorance. We are paying the price today.
A form of internal warfare
Is it therefore necessary to renounce this search for liturgical peace? Are we reduced to liturgical uniformity as the only means of unity? The question is more serious than it seems. Because it also opens a form of inner war. It is essential to be at peace with one’s past in order to move forward. If we are not able to live in peace with the previous form of liturgy, then we install war at the heart of what should be the sacrament of the unity of men with God and with each other.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity therefore first raises a question internal to the Catholic Church. The synodal process that is opening invites us to go beyond verticality, severe authoritarianism and finicky legalism which only create unbearable situations and lasting resentments.
If we talk? Rather than accusing each other of ideological presuppositions, rather than lending the other unacknowledged intentions or locking him up in his story, what if we listened to each other? We would discover wounded emotions, humiliated hearts on both sides. Yes, the 1960s and 1970s were sometimes crossed by a politicization and a radicalization of ecclesial positions (notably liturgical) which created tensions. Yes, both of us inherit cultural and sociological attitudes which need to be purified in the light of the Gospel. But how to do it ? By hurling anathemas at each other: Modernists! Integrists! Maurrassians! Progressive ! Will the truth emerge from it? By prohibiting by regulation the publication of Mass timetables? Has anyone ever seen that such a method contributes to charity and unity?
The proliferation of taboos creates, on the contrary, fascination and the desire for transgression among the younger generations of clerics and lay people alike. It should be remembered that the Roman condemnations of Lubac and Congar helped to get them read in the seminaries but did not strengthen confidence in Roman authority. Moreover, by multiplying the vexatious measures of detail against the old liturgy, one runs the risk of missing the essence of the liturgical reform desired by the Council by enclosing it in a new juridical and authoritarian rubricism rather than by opening it up to the participation of the people of God.
Let’s pray for each other
So, if we dared to pray with each other? Surely everyone should take steps. But then they would be done out of love and not out of coercion. Ecumenism is not a work of diplomacy and skill. It is first of all a spiritual attitude. So let’s open the doors. To the supporters of the ancient liturgy, when they can out of love and not out of legal obligation, to dare to experience the concelebration, the beautiful biblical richness of the lectionaries of the Novus order.
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It is up to the practitioners of the liturgy renewed following the Council to allow themselves to be disturbed with joy by these communities which celebrate the Vetus order and which bear beautiful fruits of mission. Are we forced to compete? Could fraternity be impossible? Who knows even if our parishes would not gain by celebrating from time to time towards the East or by using the ancient text of the offertory?
A benevolent heart
Let’s visit each other! Let us benevolently spend a Sunday with one who celebrates the same Lord with other rites than ours. Perhaps we will be hit by this or that way of doing things. But if our heart is benevolent, we will discover seeds of Verb that we ourselves have forgotten.
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Liturgical peace in the Church cannot be achieved as long as one side continues to cast suspicion on the Mass on the other side.
Since the Pope asks us to, it is up to everyone, bishops, priests and lay people to take charge of this fraternity from the base rather than waiting for decrees to come and regulate it. The risk of unity is entrusted to us by the Pope. What if we dare to take it in hand? If we dare reach out