Pope Francis’s approach to the liturgy has been the source of curiosity and concern for many Catholics, especially since the very questionable foot-washing episode last Holy Thursday. Now the National Catholic Register runs the most thoughtful piece on this topic to date and it should encourage those of us experiencing at least a little trepidation during the past two months. The author, Alejandro Bermudez, explains that Latin America is rife with serious liturgical abuses and shows how then-Archbishop Begoglio dealt with Marxist villero priests in Buenos Aires. Here’s a snippet:
The difference was that Cardinal Bergoglio embraced the priests and their ministry. He would visit them in the shanty towns, send them to rest if they were tired and replace them himself at their parish for a few days. He would personally take care of them if they were in bed sick — essentially, he looked after their particular needs.
The only time he removed a villero priest from a shanty town was to protect him from a local drug lord who sent death threats.
And with the same fatherly solicitude that he used to care for his priests, the archbishop requested that they return to wearing clerics; refrain from using “batata” (an Argentinean sweet potato) instead of unleavened bread to celebrate Mass; and use songs from Catholic songbooks rather than political or secular songs.
Most often, he used persuasion with his pastors to transform the liturgical abuses in Buenos Aires, but also, in the words of a fellow Jesuit, “he never flinched when tough measures were required.”
With the process of secularization and stiffer selection criteria applied to priestly vocations, the number of seminarians dropped during Cardinal Bergoglio’s years as archbishop. But friends and foes agree that the quality of the celebration and preaching dramatically improved in the archdiocese.