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.