Wednesday, 9 April 2008
I attended the main 10.30am Mass in St Peter's Basilica on Sunday. It was interesting (in a disappointing way) that the style of Marini MkI is still very much to the fore. The Mass, celebrated nicely by Cardinal Schönborn, was at the Papal Altar, furnished with groups of three short candles at the corners. No frontal. The sole concession to Pope Benedict's new style was the presence of a short, shabby, wooden cross in the middle of the altar. The Cardinal sat enthroned in front of the altar in the Pope's place; the offertory gifts were brought just as if he were the Holy Father; in other words, the brightly-clad Korean women knelt before him at his chair while he touched the gifts and blessed them. I also noticed that he was made to sit down every time his mitre was taken off or put on. It looked most awkward. One concelebrating bishop sat with the lappets of his mitre still folded over the front; he looked like a tired rabbit. Does every bishop get treated just like the Pope in St Peter's, even if he is a cardinal?
The thing that I find increasingly annoying is the treatment of the 'throne' as a simple chair to sit down on. There is a great deal of important theological significance to the diocesan bishop's throne and, much as I admire Cardinal Schönborn in many ways, he should not be sitting where the Pope sits (and even though, actually, I think the Pope too should have his throne elsewhere), though of course, the Cardinal can hardly be blamed for what the MCs make him do.
The music was somewhat disappointing. Bits of Missa de Angelis, Credo III, the Pater Noster were in plainchant. At the offertory and communion were a couple of pieces in Italian that sounded somewhere between Paul Inwood and John Rutter. The offertory one was quite nice. But there was nothing classical at all.
And the final grump is that most of the Mass (except the Preface, Canon and Pater Noster) was in Italian. Actually, the first reading was in Spanish, and the second in something Slavonic. Again, I can see an argument that in St John Lateran, the Cathedral for the diocese of Rome, the local people's language might be appropriate. But St Peter's has an international significance. Only Italians speak Italian; it is in no sense a lingua franca outside Italy. At a serious international Mass, not to make the Mass substantially Latin is absurd. Especially absurd is the practice of reciting the Prayers of the Faithful in six or seven different languages. If one is expected to say amen to something, it has to be the prayer of the Church or one must understand it. Would it not be more sensible to have a standard form, like a litany, in Latin, on these occasions? How can I say amen to a gabble of Croatian or Armenian? I'm sure it's saying something nice, but effectively it's meaningless as far as I am concerned.
The occasion, by the way, was the closing Mass of a congress all about the Divine Mercy.
Posted by Pastor in Monte at 12:08