Monday, July 19, 2010

Letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to a renowned German Theologian in 2004

(Translated from the German language by George Mueller, Ph. D.)

On June 23, 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter in German to Herr Doctor Heinz-Lothar Barth, a reputed theological author and professor at the University of Bonn. This letter was in response to a letter Dr. Barth wrote to the Cardinal regarding the Traditional Latin Mass.

Very honored Doctor Barth!

Heartfelt thanks for your letter of April 6th, the response to which I only now find the time to make. You ask that I involve myself in the wider authorization of the old Roman Rite. You yourself already know that for my part, such a request does not fall on deaf ears; indeed, my involvement in this wish has, as it happens, become generally known.

However, whether the Holy See “will once again worldwide and without limit authorize” the old rite as you wish it and have heard through rumor may happen, cannot be simply said or entirely confirmed. One must always reckon with the fact that too many Catholics have been inoculated for years with an aversion to the traditional liturgy, which they disdainfully call “pre-conciliar” and likewise with considerable opposition on the part of many bishops against a general reauthorization [of the old rite].

The situation is different if one considers a limited re-authorization: indeed the demand for the old liturgy is also limited. I know that its value does not depend on demand, but the question about the number of interested priests and laity plays, nevertheless, a sure role in this [re-authorization]. Moreover, such a measure can be translated into action only step by step today, now a good thirty years after the introduction of the liturgy reform of Pope Paul VI: to act hastily would not be for the good.

I believe, however, that in the long run the Roman Church must again have a single Roman rite: the existence of two official rites in practice is for the bishops and priests quite hard to “manage.” The Roman rite of the future ought to be a single rite, celebrated in Latin or in the language of the country, but completely based on the tradition of the [old] handed-down rite; it could take in some new elements that have proven themselves, such as new feasts, some new prefaces in the Mass, a wider order of readings – more choices than before, but not too many – an “Oratio fidelium,” i.e., a fixed litany of prayers after the Oremus before the Offertory, where it earlier had its place.

If you, honored Doctor Barth, involve yourself in this manner in your request for the Liturgy, you will assuredly not stand alone, and you will prepare “public opinion in the Church” for eventual measures in favor of an expanded use of the earlier liturgical books. However, one ought to be cautious in awakening all too high, maximum expectations in the tradition-bound faithful.

I take the opportunity to thank you for your treasured involvement with regard to the liturgy of the Roman Church in your books and lectures, even though here and there I should wish for more love and understanding for the teaching authority of the Pope and bishops.

May the seed that you sow, grow up, and bear fruit for the renewed life of the Church, whose “source and summit,” indeed whose true heart is and must remain the liturgy.

Gladly do I bestow on you the blessing you ask and I remain with heartfelt greetings,


Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Kumment: dan id-dokument mill-Kardinal Ratzinger jghinna nifhmu aktar il-hsieb ta' Papa Benedittu XVI fuq il-Liturgija.