American Hierarchy’s Statement on Liturgical Reform

The following statement was issued by the Bishops of the United States in December, 1963, in response to the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy promulgated on 4 December is the first achievement of Vatican Council II. It will affect the spiritual life of prayer and worship of all Catholics. It will make the Church more comprehensible to all men.

This is the first great step in the Church’s inner renewal begun by Pope John XXIII and now being carried out by all the bishops in union with the chief bishop, Pope Paul VI.

The bishops of the United States, having taken part fully in the discussion, amendment and acceptance of this document, welcome it wholeheartedly and dedicate themselves to fulfil its purposes.

On the one hand the constitution is a statement of the Church’s doctrine and discipline. It explains the meaning of public worship. It gives a clear mandate to deepen the liturgical understanding and activity of the people. “This full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else”.

At the same time the constitution is a document of change and revision. In broad terms it directs a reform of rites and texts so that they may be simpler and clearer. Putting such changes into effect must await specific action by a commission set up by the Holy Father.

One important change, however, has become the immediate concern of the bodies of bishops in the different countries or regions. This is the concession of the vernacular languages in the liturgy for the sake of the peoples’ understanding, piety and easier participation.

Such concessions are possible without waiting for the revision of rites but depend upon the action of the bodies of bishops for the respective regions. For the Mass the Council has allowed the vernacular for the lessons and for the parts of the people, in effect, for most of the parts said aloud or sung up to the Canon and for such parts as the Sanctus, Our Father, etc. For the sacraments and sacramentals the vernacular is allowed throughout. For the Divine Office the clergy must receive permission from the individual bishops or ordinaries.


Posted on February 27, 2011, in Bishops' Pastorals, Liturgy, Second Vatican Council. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’ll reproduce here what I wrote on Fr Z’s site:

    I am puzzled by the document you cite. Who issued it? In 1963 there was no USCCB, and it doesn’t seem to have been produced by an US Council. Further, SC was promulgated in Dec, the same month that this document originated.

    Where did you find it?

  2. Dr Brown, it was issued by the US Bishops’ Commission on the Liturgical Apostolate on the same day SC was promulgated (4th December 1963).

    It was sent to me. I can’t name the source, sorry.

  3. I wasn’t wondering about the person who sent you the link, just trying to find the document.

    I don’t think it is correct to attribute it to the American Hierarchy. It seems that it was produced by a commission that sent out newsletters. Members included the likes of Dearden and Weakland (and probably McManus).

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