VATICAN CITY (CNS): The norms for celebrating Mass must be followed exactly to ensure reverence for the Eucharist and to preserve the unity of the Catholic Church, said a new Vatican document.
“In some places the perpetration of liturgical abuses has become almost habitual, a fact which obviously cannot be allowed and must cease,” said the document, Redemptionis Sacramentum (The Sacrament of Redemption), written by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
The instruction, approved by Pope John Paul II and released at an April 23 Vatican press conference, particularly cited as abuses the use of eucharistic prayers not approved by the Church, changing approved prayer texts, and allowing lay people to carry out functions reserved to a priest or deacon.
The document said that while it was “laudable” to encourage boys and young men to be altar servers, girls and women can be altar servers if the local bishop permitted the practice.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the congregation, told reporters, “No one should be surprised that over the course of time the holy Church, our mother, has developed words, actions and, therefore, directives regarding this supreme act of worship.
The document highlighted violations of existing Church norms, but did not set new rules.
It recognised as legitimate the various practices local bishops have been authorised to permit, including Communion in the hand and the distribution of Communion under the species of bread and wine.
At the same time, it insisted that lay people delegated to assist with the distribution of Communion be referred to as “extraordinary ministers of holy Communion,” rather than as eucharistic ministers to emphasise the fact that in the Catholic liturgy the priest is the minister of the Eucharist.
Unlike an early draft of the document, which was leaked to the press last summer, the instruction did not ban liturgical dance; it did not mention dance at all.
The instruction emphasised that the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice and is not simply a “fraternal meal.”