Why shouldn’t the greatest ecumenical council in the Church’s history create a new rite — an ecumenical or world Mass — to which Catholics could invite their Protestant brothers who retain a love for the Eucharist?
This was the question posed to newsmen by a German-born missionary bishop shortly after he had raised it at the council itself.
Bishop William Duschak, S.V.D., Apostolic Vicar of Calapan, the Philippines, suggested that the ecumenical or world Mass should be in the common language of the people wherever it is celebrated. It would be, he said, “simple, grand and monumental” and composed in Rome.
Bishop Duschak said he spoke not as a liturgy expert but as a “practical missionary.” He has spent more than 30 of his 59 years in the Philippines.
The Bishop emphasized that he is not against Latin.
“I love the Latin language. It is and should remain the language of the Church.”
But he said that an unfamiliar language such as Latin or any tongue other than that of the people “deprives the people of their right to participate in the Mass.”
He said his idea for an ecumenical Mass is founded on two premises: that rites are man-made and that the Mass should be based on the first Mass, the Last Supper.
He said Christ’s command at the Last Supper, “Do this in commemoration of me,” has four consequences. These are:
— The priest must face the people. “Nobody who invites guests to a supper turns his back on them.”
— The priest should speak in an audible voice, as a common courtesy.
— The priest, like Christ at the Last Supper, should speak in the language of those present.
— The priest should use the words of Christ Himself as much as possible. Words composed by ordinary men should be used only sparingly.
A priest in the audience objected that Latin is a symbol of unity and that the vernacular would encourage a nationalistic outlook in religion and open the way to schism. This priest also asserted that Christian teaching in the Mass could be distorted by translation into another language.
Bishop Duschak replied: “The ecumenical Mass would be composed chiefly of Christ’s own words taken from Scripture.
“And we have the Scriptures in every language.” There is no real fear of error, he stated.
“How do you think people learn their religion? In Latin? They learn it in their mother tongue. Their faith is enshrined in the mother tongue.”
He said Latin is not a symbol of unity but of disunity. He quoted St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians: “One body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God” (Eph. 4,4).
“St. Paul,” he said, “does not say anything about one language.”
He said that the modern form of the Mass is not a Christian Mass in its historical origins, “but a synagogal Mass,” based on customs of worship in the Jewish temple.
He called tradition, custom and habit the main obstacles to the adoption of a vernacular Mass.
Asked how such a Mass in the mother tongue and making greater use of Christ’s words would fit in with the ecumenical movement, he replied:
“It will be impossible to work for unity in belief. … There can be unity in certain matters of morality. There can be unity in all matters of charity. There can be unity in the sphere of worship.”
He called his idea for the world Mass a “mustard seed.”
“I do not enter into the details, I explain my idea. The experts must do the rest,” he declared.
NC Rome correspondent