Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Without liturgical reform, there is no reform of the church

February 15, 2024

On Feb. 8, during a meeting of the Dicastery for Divine Worship, of which I am a member, the Holy Father delivered an important address about the importance of liturgical reform.

He began by noting that the council fathers chose to outline the objectives of Vatican II in “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” the document calling for a renewal of the liturgy. The council’s aim, as described in that document’s opening sentences, Pope Francis recalled, was “to reform the Church in her fundamental dimensions: to make the Christian life of the faithful grow more and more every day; to adapt the institutions subject to change better to the needs of our time; to foster that which can contribute to the union of all believers in Christ; to reinvigorate that which serves to call all to the bosom of the Church (cf. SC, 1). It is a task of spiritual, pastoral, ecumenical and missionary renewal.”

The decision to present the goals of Vatican II in the document calling for a reform of the liturgy was intentional. As Pope Francis observed: “It is like saying: Without liturgical reform, there is no reform of the Church.”

Why is the liturgical reform central in bringing about the reform of the church? Because the baptized are formed in and from the liturgy. Or, as the Holy Father noted: “The scope of liturgical reform — in the broadest context of the renewal of the Church — is precisely to “‘bring to life the kind of formation of the faithful and ministry of pastors that will have their summit and source in the liturgy” (Instruction “Inter oecumenici,’” Sept. 26, 1964, 5).

It is in the liturgy, “the quintessential place to meet the living Christ,” that we are formed for spiritual growth, to engage the world in this age, to work for Christian unity and take up with fresh vigor the mission to proclaim the Good News to all people. “A Church that does not feel the passion for spiritual growth, that does not seek to speak comprehensibly to the men and women of her time, that does not grieve for the division among Christians, that does not tremble with the eagerness to proclaim Christ to the nations, is a sick Church, and these are the symptoms,” the pope explained.

The Holy Father also took the occasion to speak about the important role of priests in offering leadership in advancing the reform of the church through the liturgical reform. He referred to pastors as “mystagogues,” who “take the faithful by the hand and accompany them in their knowledge of the holy mysteries.” He urged the members of the dicastery to assist pastors in this regard, so that they come to “know how to lead the people to the good pasture of the liturgical celebration, where the proclamation of Christ who died and rose again becomes a concrete experience of his life-transforming presence.”

It is in this context that we come to appreciate Pope Francis’ clear teaching offered nearly three years ago that “the liturgical books promulgated by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ of the Roman Rite” (motu proprio “Traditionis Custodes”).  It is in and from this reformed liturgy that the baptized are continually formed to take up the mission of Christ in our time. Absent our celebration of the reformed liturgy, we risk impoverishing the Christian way of life and the life of the entire church. Or, as the Holy Father urged us to understand, “without liturgical reform, there is no reform of the Church.”


  • liturgy