Camillo Cardinal Ruini Camillo Cardinal Ruini
Cardinal Vicar of Roma, Italy
Cardinal Priest of S Agnese fuori le mura
Feb 19, 1931
Jun 28, 1991
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English Solicitude for the Unity of the Church
Jul 17, 2007
Ten days ago, at the end of the meeting dedicated to the “motu proprio” on the use of the Roman liturgy before Vatican Council II, Benedict XVI wanted to illustrate personally the motives that prompted him to promulgate this text.

Solicitude for the Unity of the Church
by Camillo Ruini

Ten days ago, at the end of the meeting dedicated to the “motu proprio” on the use of the Roman liturgy before Vatican Council II, Benedict XVI wanted to illustrate personally the motives that prompted him to promulgate this text.

As the first and foremost of these motives, the pope indicated concern for the unity of the Church, a unity that subsists not only in space, but also in time, and which is incompatible with fractures and opposition among the various phases of its historical development.

This means that Pope Benedict has taken up again the central message of his address to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005, in which, forty years after the Council, he proposed as the key for interpreting Vatican II, not “the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” but rather that “of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church.”

He is not in this way bringing to bear his own personal point of view or theological preference, but rather fulfilling the essential duty of the successor of Peter, who, as the Council itself says (Lumen Gentium no. 23), “is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.”

At the same time, in the letter to bishops with which he accompanies and puts into their hands the “motu proprio,” Pope Benedict writes that the positive reason that induced him to publish it is that of reaching an internal reconciliation within the bosom of the Church. He expressly recalls how, looking to the divisions that have wounded the Body of Christ over the centuries, “one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity.”

From here, the pope continues, we receive the “obligation . . . to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.”

It is only by putting ourselves on this wavelength that we can truly grasp the meaning of the “motu proprio,” and put it into practice in a positive an fruitful way.

In reality, as the pope explains abundantly in his letter, there is no foundation to the fear that the Council’s authority will be compromised and that the liturgical reform will be brought into doubt, or that the work of Paul VI and John Paul II will be discredited.

The missal of Paul VI remains, in fact, the “normal” and “ordinary” form of the Eucharistic liturgy, while the Roman missal from before the Council can be used as an “extraordinary form.”

This is not a question - the pope clarifies - of “two rites,” but of a twofold use of one and the same Roman rite. John Paul II, moreover, first in 1984 and then in 1988, had permitted the use of the missal from before the Council, for the same reasons that are now prompting Benedict XVI to take a further step in this direction.

Besides, such a further step is not one-way. It requires constructive will and sincere sharing of the intention that guided Benedict XVI: not only for the overwhelming majority of the priests and faithful who are comfortable with the reform that followed Vatican II, but also for those who remain deeply attached to the previous form of the Roman rite.

In concrete terms, the former are asked not to indulge, in the celebrations, in those abuses that unfortunately have not been lacking, and which obscure the spiritual richness and theological profundity of the missal of Paul VI.

The latter are asked not to exclude in principle the celebration according to this new missal, thus manifesting concretely their acceptance of the Council.

In this way, the risk will be averted that a “motu proprio” released in order to better unite the Christian community will instead be used to divide it.

In his letter the pope, addressing the bishops, emphasizes that these new norms “do not diminish in any way” their authority and responsibility for the liturgy and for the pastoral care of their faithful.

As Vatican II teaches (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 22), every bishop is in fact “the moderator of the liturgy in his diocese,” in communion with the pope and under his authority. This, too, is a criterion of the highest importance, in order that the “motu proprio” may bear the productive results for which it was written.
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