Pope Benedict XVI told participants at an international liturgical conference that tradition and progress are not opposites, but complimentary parts of Catholic life and worship.
“Not infrequently are tradition and progress in awkward opposition,” he told attendees of the Ninth International Congress on the Liturgy, sponsored by the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.
“Actually, though, the two concepts are interwoven: tradition is a living reality that, in itself, includes the principle of development, of progress.”
Likewise, he noted in his May 6 address, authentic progress in the area of liturgy must build upon the tradition of the Church rather than discarding it. “The liturgy,” he stated, “lives (in) a proper and constant relation between sound 'tradition' and legitimate 'progression.'”
The Pope recalled that this notion of development in accord with tradition inspired his predecessor Bl. Pope John XXIII to establish the liturgical institute 50 years ago.
That Pope, he recalled, recognized “the requests of the liturgical movement that sought to give new impetus and a new spirit to the Church's prayer,” and sought to ensure “a solid basis” for the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.
The purpose of the reform, he observed, “was not mainly to change the rites and texts” of Catholic worship. Rather, he said, it was to “renew the mentality” of worshipers, and “put the celebration of Christ's paschal mystery at the center of Christian life and pastoral work.”
But he acknowledged that many of the resulting efforts fell short of this goal, due to misunderstandings about the fundamental nature and purpose of Catholic worship.
“Unfortunately,” he acknowledged, “the liturgy has perhaps been seen – even by us, pastors and experts – more as an object to reform, than a subject capable of renewing Christian life.”
He cited the Second Vatican Council's document “Sancrosanctum Concilium,” which encouraged the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant in parishes, to emphasize the “very close and organic bond” between “the renewal of the liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the Church.”
Pope Benedict urged members of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute to continue serving the Church “with renewed enthusiasm” in the coming years, “in full fidelity to the rich and valuable liturgical tradition and to the reform desired by Vatican Council II,” especially the “magisterial directives” of “Sancrosanctum Concilium.”