Pope Francis says Mass at the chapel of Santa Marta in the Vatican, Sept. 11, 2018./ Vatican Media.
After pandemic lockdowns led to the suspension of Catholic liturgies in many parts of the world, the Sunday Mass must be reaffirmed as the source and summit of parish life, the Vatican Secretary of State said in a message sent Monday on behalf of the pope.
“The suspension of liturgies during the long period of lockdown and the difficulties of the subsequent recovery confirmed what had already been observed in the Sunday assemblies on the Italian peninsula: an alarming indication of … the change of epoch,” Pietro Cardinal Parolin wrote in an Aug. 23 message for Italy’s National Liturgical Week.
The cardinal said that attendance at Sunday Masses in Italy is unbalanced in terms of the generations and cultures represented.
He said that parishes face difficulties in reestablishing the Mass “in being the true summit of all its activities and the source of missionary dynamism to bring the Gospel of mercy to the geographical and existential peripheries.”
“The Holy Father hopes that the National Liturgical Week, with its proposals for reflection and moments of celebration … may identify and suggest some lines of liturgical pastoral care to be offered to parishes, so that Sunday, the Eucharistic assembly, the ministries and the rite may emerge from the marginality towards which they seem inexorably to precipitate, and to recover their centrality in the faith and spirituality of believers,” he said.
All public liturgies were suspended in Italy for ten weeks in 2020 when the country faced the highest mortality rates of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The sad experience of last year’s liturgical ‘fast’ highlighted the goodness of the long journey that has been made since the Second Vatican Council, along the path mapped out by the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium,” Cardinal Parolin asserted.
“The time of privation made it possible to perceive ‘the importance of the divine liturgy for the life of Christians, who find therein that objective mediation required by the fact that Jesus Christ is not an idea or a sentiment, but a living Person, and his Mystery a historical event. The prayer of Christians passes through tangible mediations: Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, liturgical rites, the community.’”
The 71st National Liturgical Week is taking place in Cremona Aug. 23-26 after it was postponed last year due to the pandemic. Cremona is located in Lombardy, the region in Italy hit hardest by COVID-19.
“The weekly gathering in the ‘name of the Lord’, which from the very beginning has been perceived by Christians as indispensable and indissolubly linked to their identity, was severely affected during the most acute phase of the spread of the pandemic,” Cardinal Parolin said.
“But love for the Lord and pastoral creativity pushed pastors and lay faithful to explore other ways of nourishing the communion of faith and love with the Lord and with their brothers and sisters, while waiting to be able to return to the fullness of the Eucharistic celebration in peace and security.”
“It was a difficult and painful wait, illuminated by the mystery of the Lord’s Cross and fruitful in many works of care, fraternal love and service to the people who suffered most from the consequences of the health emergency,” he said.