Quiet optimism surrounds appointment of Vatican’s new liturgy head

Pope Francis, May 27, announced that British Archbishop, Arthur Roche (pictured) will be the new head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. (Liturgy Office.)

Roche replaces controversial conservative Cardinal, Robert Sarah, whose resignation Pope Francis accepted on 20 February.

The Vatican liturgy office is charged with overseeing the Catholic Church’s liturgical rites, and senior New Zealand people involved in liturgy told CathNews they quietly optimistic about him pressing ahead with post-conciliar liturgical reform.

They say Roche seems to have worked well with Francis and cite two examples of the relationship, the reform to the “mandatum” to include the washing of women and even non-Catholics feet on Holy Thursday, and the 2017 Magnum Principium document giving bishops’ conferences more say over the liturgical translations they use.

While hopeful, they remain cautious and are keen to see if the appointment will lead to a more intelligible English Missal.

“It will be interesting to see what Roche will do in his own right”, a senior priest told CathNews.

“It’s hard to see that despite Magnum Principium, an improved version of the Missal was going to go anywhere because Sarah was in charge”, the priest told CathNews.

Appointed as Secretary in the Liturgy Office (No 2), by former Pope, Benedict XVI, Roche (71) came from Leeds, where he was also the chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

In his role as Liturgy Secretary, he ruled out using the 1998 ICEL translation, a document he as chairman of ICEL had close involvement with.

A former head of the Diocese of Leeds, England, Roche is known in Rome as something of a quiet voice and more of a team player than his predecessor.

Unlike Sarah, who was often seen as an opponent of Francis’ vision for the global church, Roche is not known to maintain a Twitter account, he does not often give interviews and prefers to stay out of the limelight except when making press statements.

The new prefect has been leading the liturgy office on an interim basis since Francis accepted Sarah’s resignation.

Beyond Roche, Francis also appointed new No. 2 and No. 3 officials for the congregation.

Italian Bishop Vittorio Viola will serve as secretary and Msgr. Aurelio Marcias, formerly a department head at the office, will now serve as its under-secretary.

After Sarah resigned, Francis broke with tradition and asked an outside consultant to meet with liturgy office staff, review the office’s procedures and consider what might be needed in a new prefect.

In 2017, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops called for a prompt review of the 2011 Latinisted Missal and to review the 1998 draft Roman Missal translation.

Five years later the Bishops and New Zealand people still wait.

Bishop Patrick Dunn, then president of the New Zealand Bishop’s Conference said at the time, despite Magnum Principium, the New Zealand bishops were also not inclined to go it alone because they acknowledge the importance of working collegially with ICEL.


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