Liturgical life of the Germans is stranger than many may think

Liturgical designers at work

Notes from the German Catholic Congress IV

The free-handed handling of the liturgical order at the closing service sends the wrong signal.

Closing service of the German Catholic Congress on the steps of the Erfurt Cathedral.


The main celebrant is Bishop Georg Bätzing, Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference. The service contains "classical elements": Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei are sung by the choir in Latin and Greek; the communion song provided for by the Missal for the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time is also performed by the choir as a Latin motet.

But liturgical designers are at work in the course of the Mass, especially in the Liturgy of the Word. The greeting of peace, which is provided for in the Roman liturgy before Communion, takes place in Erfurt at the beginning of the Mass, after the general confession . There is a lot of handshaking on all sides on the Cathedral square, while the choir sings the Kyrie. The sermon - delivered as a "dialogue sermon" by Bätzing, alternating with the theologian, Juliane Eckstein - is held after the second reading, not after the Gospel, as originally intended. Only after the dialogue sermon do the Hallelujah call and the Gospel follow. After a long moderation text, which establishes the connection to the Gospel, various people working in the social sector give insights into their work. Each speaker receives friendly applause for his presentation. A song is then sung. The Creed provided for in the liturgy on Sunday is omitted  (Cathcon: shows the priorities!!!!). This is followed by the intercessions, which are followed by the procession of the gifts. By then more than 45 minutes have passed.

The celebration seems completely overloaded with all the different texts and speakers. The real problem, however, is the careless handling of the liturgical order on such a prominent occasion. The planners will certainly be able to justify every change and every modification in theological terms. But even if one considers the Erfurt special liturgy to be successful, the wrong signal is being sent here.

The liturgy comes from far away and leads into the distance; it is not the work of those involved; it is unavailable and, precisely for this reason, gives a home; it is the familiar language of worship. And finally: following the order, letting the rite be a rite, is the best form of "quality management". Because it is in the nature of things that very few creative adaptations of the liturgy are really more convincing than the original. It is a task and challenge enough to carry out what has been given well.

"Full-time and volunteer staff" who now feel encouraged to make their own changes to the Holy Mass will be able to point to the celebration in Erfurt with every justification. Or does the following apply here: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi?


Cathcon:  There is even a dose of Stetter-Karp before the final blessing.