Vatican congress to mark 50th anniversary
of first Mass in the vernacular

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On 7 March 1965, Blessed Paul VI, celebrated the first-ever Mass in Italian in the parish of Ognissanti (All Saints), Rome. “Today we inaugurate the new form of Liturgy in all the parishes and churches of the world, for all the Masses followed by the people. It is a great event, that shall be remembered as the beginning of a flourishing spiritual life, as a new effort to participate in the great dialogue between God and man.

Fifty years on, to commemorate this historic date, Pope Francis will preside at a Eucharistic celebration next Saturday, 7 March at 6pm in the same parish. The occasion will also be celebrated by a Congress on Pastoral Liturgy organised by the Vicariate of Rome, the Opera Don Orione and the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Rome, to open today at the Teatro Orione, adjacent to the All Saints parish.

The theme of the Congress is ‘United in giving thanks’. The works will be presented by Rev Flavio Peloso, superior general of the Sons of Divine Providence (Don Orione), who comments that the event will facilitate an understanding of the reasons behind yesterday’s liturgical reforms and today’s commitment to liturgical fidelity”.

Following greetings from the auxiliary bishop, Giuseppe Marciante, Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrano, metropolitan emeritus of Foggia-Bovino, Italy, will speak about ‘Tradition and renewal in paragraph 23 of the liturgical Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium’. Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, will then consider the theme “The spoken language, tool of communion in the dialogue of the liturgical assembly’, and finally Rev. Francesco Mazzitelli, parish priest of Ognissanti, will examine ‘The liturgical formation of the laity’.

The work of the Congress will be concluded by the Benedictine Fr Jordi Pique, president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute. The moderator, Fr Giuseppe Midili, director of the diocesan liturgical office, affirm3ed that ‘the congress offers various points for reflection on the reasons that led the conciliar bishops to introduce the spoken language into the liturgy. Indeed, one of the main aims of liturgical reform was full, active and conscious participation in the liturgy, so that the faithful moved on from their role as mute, extraneous spectators. In this sense, the change was historical and signified a turnaround. Indeed, when the liturgy was celebrated in a language they did not understand, the faithful sought more accessible forms of private worship and prayer to recite during the Mass. With the introduction of the spoken language, these individualistic forms slowly disappeared from the celebratory context in favour of the centrality of the community celebration”.