OFFICE FOR THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
Vatican City, 1 October 2007
As I prepare to leave the direction of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, I feel bound to express my gratitude first and foremost to Divine Providence for the unique liturgical experience I have been privileged to have during these nearly twenty-one years in the service of the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They in turn followed twenty-two no less extraordinary years spent in the various agencies of the Roman Curia which oversaw the implementation of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council.
These years at the direct service of the Pope have been the most significant and demanding years in my life as a man and a priest, stretching from when I was just forty-five years old, and all horizons lay open before me, to the present, when I am nearing the age of sixty-six.
As I look back along the way, I thank the Lord who called me to undertake a special ministry in God’s Church. I thank him especially for the experience of being at the immediate service of the Successor of Peter in the celebration of the sacred mysteries: first with the Servant of God John Paul II for a full eighteen years and then with the present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, during the intense first two and a half years of his pontificate. It has been an ecclesial experience which has allowed me to sense profoundly the shadow of Peter present in the Church of today. In his successors, Peter continues to proclaim the Gospel message and to celebrate the sacraments in the Church of Rome and in the various communities of the faithful throughout the world. It has also been a unique ecclesial experience: suffice it to consider the eighty international journeys which I made twice, to say nothing of journeys in Italy. No liturgical experience in our time can compare with these years of service to the Chair of Peter, either for the variety of saving events commemorated, the diversity of places of celebration, the multiplicity of situations encountered and solutions devised, the number of persons met, the make-up of the assemblies, or the diversity of traditions and cultural backgrounds.
At the side of the Successor of Peter, I have learned in these years to love the Church’s liturgy, which I consider, together with the faith, to be the greatest gift I have received, a gift which gives meaning to my human and priestly life in this world.
Nonetheless, God’s Providence is now calling me to look to the future. In doing so, now with the benefit of more advanced years, I am consoled by the prospect of remaining at the service of the celebration of the sacred mysteries in the Church. Every time I celebrate the liturgy, in fact, I sense that my being is in communion with life: the light of the Risen One always gives light and warmth to my heart, my eyes recognize him and brighten with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of these reflections rising from my heart, I wish to thank the two Popes whom I have had the grace of serving as Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. I think first of the Servant of God John Paul II, who appointed me at forty-three years of age the Under-Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship; then, two years later, entrusted me with responsibility for papal liturgical celebrations; and in 1998 imposed hands on me at my Episcopal ordination.
I thank him for having always favoured the growth of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations. He provided for its juridical autonomy, supported and approved the renewal of the celebrations of the papal liturgy, and finally, in Rome and above all in the countless communities he visited throughout the world, welcomed and heartily approved the proposals made for adapting the liturgy to different cultures in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. During his pontificate, the particular churches found in papal celebrations a sure point of reference for discerning the face of the liturgy as willed by the Council. John Paul II was not himself a liturgical expert in the technical sense, but he showed confidence in his Master of Liturgical Celebrations, and by his pastoral enthusiasm for evangelization he became the Church’s most authoritative interpreter and steadfast executor of the liturgy of Vatican II. For this reason, I feel bound to express my gratitude to him, as he now celebrates in the communion of the saints the liturgy of the heavenly Jerusalem.
I also express my heartfelt filial gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI who, immediately following his election, chose to confirm me as Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations. To tell the truth, it was not a completely new experience for me, since I had been his master of ceremonies following his elevation to the cardinalate. For this reason too, from the very start I felt welcomed by Pope Benedict as a son. In him I could see, to my great satisfaction, not only a professor but also a Pope who is an expert in the liturgy. I will never forget the emotion I felt in finding myself alone with him in the Sistine Chapel just after his election, or the emotion I experienced during the rites of the inauguration of his Petrine ministry. These rites remain fixed in my mind and heart, since I consider them the fullest and most successful icon which the liturgy has given of the Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Thank you, Pope Benedict, for having approved those rites and for having celebrated them with God’s Holy People. Thank you, again, for having given me, at the conclusion of my service as Master, a new responsibility which allows me to remain involved with celebrations of the Eucharist in God’s Church. It will be all the easier for me as I continue to sense your friendly, paternal closeness.
Finally, I wish to thank all those who over the years have helped me better to carry out my work in papal liturgical celebrations: the staff of the Office, the papal masters of ceremonies, the consultors, the staff of various offices of the Holy See and many other collaborators in Rome, in the dioceses of Italy and in the particular churches of the whole world. Without them, I could not have had so wonderful an ecclesial experience in the papal celebrations.
To all of you I renew my heartfelt thanks for your help and your generous witness of faith.
+ Piero Marini