Polermo, Italy 2007

The XXI. Congress of Societas Liturgica was held in Palermo: 6th – 11th of August 2007.

Liturgy and the public square

In the Christian liturgy God announces salvation and pours out to all the world the grace that was definitively inaugurated in the Passover of Christ. At the same time this liturgy is that worship in spirit and truth which the baptized give to God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit on behalf of all the world. Therefore, if the liturgy is exercised in the first place in the house of the Church, it also has a fundamental vocation to be directed outward toward others and toward the public world.

Liturgy has always done this, even when persecutions or the ancient disciplina arcani lead to a certain retreat, a retreat necessary so that the capacity of the community to announce the Gospel of Christ was not put in danger. Even in such a time Christians were aware of the public significance of their mysteria. Liturgy still in our days turns outward in witness and service. Also in our days the mysteries at the heart of the liturgy are intended to speak grace to the world. Nonetheless in our time that public significance may be both expressed and complicated by the media. For example, broadcasts of large gatherings – such as the megachurches of the USA or funerals of public figures – may have the effect of accentuating performance values.

This impact of the liturgy on the public square has been manifest in the past and often also today through aspects of popular devotion, notably the processions and pilgrimages of medieval Christianity, but also such rites as coronations. Marriages and funerals are another public face of Christian celebration. So have been sacrament meetings and revivals in parts of Christianity. One should also not forget the multiple artistic works that Christianity has influenced – e. g. musical productions and the medieval mystery plays – or the architectural monuments and urban organisation of which Sicily constitutes a remarkable example.

But the liturgical assembly, even if it is of very modest size, is by nature oriented toward a reality larger than itself, not only the manifestation of a God who makes covenant but also toward the very criteria of truth: service toward others (diakonia) and witness (martyria). Without ethics or the announcement of the faith, liturgy risks being reduced to the simple expression of individual aspirations and thereby loses its deepest character. As expressed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (cf. Rom 12,1-2) liturgy is at the heart of the life of faith, the centre from which Christian life proceeds and to which it returns.


The XXI congress of Societas Liturgica which will take place in Palermo, Sicily, from August 6 to 11, 2007, will seek to engage the questions which are posed by liturgical and sacramental practice when these encounter the world in the public square. This public square may be an actual phenomenon of the city, amidst streets and lanes and civic life, or it may be the openness of the celebrating community toward people who have had no actual part in the liturgy or who take part only at a distance – inquirers, people who watch television, leading figures of civil society who visit a liturgy, or believers in another religion who find themselves in a Christian church.

Following on the XX congress at Dresden which gave attention to the work of the liturgy in transforming a broken world, the next congress will seek to better comprehend the theological and pastoral implications of the liturgy as a public action.

Such a consideration of liturgical practices thus invites us to attend to three principal trajectories for our thought.

1. The relationship between liturgy and society and liturgy and politics in a context in which the media tend to reduce liturgy to its appearances although it is first of all a fundamental place of the proposal and the confession of faith.

2. The impact of the great central symbols of liturgy in a world which is a market place of plural ritual offerings, often disconnected to ecclesial institutions.

3. The encounter with cultural and religious expressions which call for liturgical life to be a means of integration and of identity for its participants.Methodologically the subject invites us to honour several points of view. In the first place we will seek to cast a light on the diverse models which have marked the Christian tradition in different times and places. The congress will give a significant accent to this question, both in major lectures and in case studies, dealing with the multiple realisations of the relationship between liturgy and the public square which belong to all the periods of history (apostolic times, pastristic antiquity, the middle ages, the modern period), but also to different cultural environments in which Christianity has been enfleshed (the Christian East, Europe, but also Asia, Africa and Latin America).
In the second place we will give special attention to instruments of analysis from philosophy, sociology, and anthropology in order to better apprehend the specific situation of the liturgy in contemporary society.

In the third place we will seek to explore the ways in which liturgy itself and reflection on the liturgy may function as acts of political or public theology proposing meaning and liberation to society.

Finally, as with all of the gatherings of Societas Liturgica which take place as an international and ecumenical association of liturgists, it will matter for us to pay attention to the particular experience of the Christian communities that will receive us. Indeed, their singular history constitutes a provocation for us to more attentively seek the unity between the Churches, valuing that which is best in each tradition.

  • Adam, Julio Cezar: Liturgie mit Schülern: Wie die Verbindung von Populärkultur und Religion Gottes Kraft unter Jugendlichen wirken läßt
  • Boselli, Gottfredo: La concelebrazione eucaristica: bilancio della sua pratica
  • Butcher, Brian: The History & Theology of the Byzantine Rite’s ‘Great Blessing of Water’
  • Daly, Robert: Eucharist and Sacrifice: An Overview of the Major Problems Uncovered in the Preparation of Sacrifice Unveiled
  • Darby, Ian Douglas: Fifty years on from Lambeth 1958
  • De Baldraithe, Eoin: Recovering the Early Church Tradition of Weekday Eucharist
  • Deschler, Jean-Paul: Syrische Liturgie und Byzantinische Ikonen – Sakrale Bilder als Transkription liturgischer Texte
  • Drouin, Gilles: De l’assistance a la participation à la messe. Fecondite d’une Relecture de Bossuet
  • Faber, Vincent: Les liturgies d’initiation pour des enfants handicapés mentaux comme facteur d’intégration sociale
  • Galbreath, Paul: The Ethics of Eating: Charting an Ecumenical Eucharistic Trajectory
  • Griffiths, Keith: Stigma, Pastoral Care and Eucharist; touching those pushed aside
  • Haldeman, Scott: We will not leave you alone, unless you bless us: The Marriage Equality movement, Christian weddings, and the expansion of civil rights
  • Hössjer Sundman, Boel: “The Lord is among us” – about an Analysis of the Presence of God in Contemporary Worshiptexts in the Church of Sweden
  • Howlett, Paul Harvey: Significance and Mystery in the Church of England’s “A Service of the Word”
  • Hughes, Graham: Protestant Priesthood? An attempted reconfiguration of ordained ministry from ecumenical perspectives.
  • Istrati, Valentin Ioan: Divine Liturgy: Mystical and Eucharistic Cosmos
  • Jacobsson, Ritva Maria: Introìts universels, tropes locaux
  • Kain, Anthony: Finding God in Australia: The Encounter with Aboriginal Dreaming
  • Kochuramapil, Jose: Angels in the Liturgy: a Case Study in the East Syrian Holy Qurbana
  • Kubicki, Judith: Sacramental Symbols in a Time of Violence and Disruption: Words of Healing and Reconciliation Written on Broken Bodies
  • Lampinen, Tapio and Sirpa: Inculturation in Old Christendom. Two Finnish Examples: a Finnish Folklore Mass and a “Latino” Mass
  • Martola, Nils: The Public Invitation in the Jewish Passover
  • Martola, Yngvill: Welcome to the Stranger: The Discipline of the Table and Public Liturgy in the 21st Century.
  • Nettleton, Nathan: Walking the Walk: Analysing the narrative structural implications of contemporary worship orders
  • O’Brien, Jennifer: Rites of Healing for Those who have been Abused
  • O’Donoghue, Neil: The significance of small church size vis-a-vis Eucharistic practice in Pre Norman Ireland
  • Parenmalm, Pernilla: Worship with small congregations in large spaces
  • Phillips, L. Edward: From Collection to Offering: the Ritualization of Money in American Methodist Worship
  • Regan, Patrick: From Piazza to Basilica: The Light Service at the Paschal Vigil
  • Roll, Susan K.: A Pilgrimage to Parliament Hill, “How Women Became Persons in Canada”
  • Runst, Annika: Der christliche Sonntag als Beitrag zur kulturellen Idenität Europas
  • Rutherford, Richard: Baptisteries of the Early Christian World: a catalogue, a database, an invitation
  • Söderbloom, Rebecca: Theotókos and teenage mother – Mary and Mariology in the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) confessional documents and sermon outlines 1983-2004
  • Stancliffe, David: The 2005 Ordinal of the Church of England
  • Tracey, Liam: Reading a liturgical action: The work of Silvano Maggiani
  • Turner, Paul: How I preached 9/11
  • von Börtzell, Xiomara: Worship in multicultural environment
  • Weil, Louis
  • Lesh, Ryan: The Good Friday Veneration in the Light of the Johannine Passion
  • Wijngaarden, Martin L. van: Public (non clerical) use or new chances for the Protestant church in the Netherlands, a cross-section of the present problems in a process of formulating precise management with chances and limitations
  • Woods, Michael: The Cultivation of Soil and Soul: The Intersection of the American Liturgical Movement and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference
The following Case Studies will be presented at the next Congress of Societas Liturgica:

  • Antoni, Sébastien: La place de la liturgie dans la presse quotidienne à partir de l’exemple du quotidien catholique français La Croix de 1880 à 2006
  • Baldovin, John F.: Liturgy on the Town: Some Recent Studies
  • Barnard, Marcel and Wepener, Cas: Religious Ritual, Social Capital and Poverty in South Africa
  • Berger, Teresa: „Wisdom has built her house“: Gender and Liturgy, between Domesticity and the Public Square
  • Böntert, Stefan: Liturgie im öffentlichen Raum des Internet. Probleme und Perspektiven einer überraschenden Begegnung
  • Bovens, Geoffrey: La liturgie dans le scoutisme. Aliment de vie spirituelle, ferment de vie sociale pendant l’entre-deux guerres
  • Bricout, Hélène: Peut-on se marier sans un acte public? Questions théologiques autour d’un fait social
  • Buchanan, Colin: Liturgy and liturgical change in the established Church of England
  • De Clerck, Paul: Les Prières de l’Eglise à propos de la guerre et de la paix
  • De Klerk, Ben and Letsosa, Rantoa: The Liturgical Involvement in HIV? Aids as a pandemic in the Public Square
  • Deverell, Garry J.: As Worlds Collide: Liturgy and Political Truth
  • Gazzola, Isaïa: A propos de la mystagogie de Théodore de Mopsueste sur le transfert des offrandes dans l’Eucharistie et sa relation avec les rites funéraires paîens de l’époque
  • Gerhards, Albert: Die Wechselbeziehung von Sakralbauten und Gesellschaft – ein Forschungsprojekt
  • Gilligan, Michael: North American Hymnody and Public Square
  • Gribben, Robert: Funerals and the National Flag – reflections on a public controversy
  • Join-Lambert, Arnauld: Mutations des liturgies d’État en France : du couronnement de Napoléon aux obsèques de Mitterrand
  • Klomp, Mirella: The sound of Amsterdam Southeast
  • Kolár, Pavel: Stádník’s “Via crucis” and Arthur Vogel’s Theology of the Eucharist
  • Kranemann, Benedikt: Liturgie angesichts von Krieg und Gewalt. Aspekte eines neuen Forschungsfeldes
  • Lampard, John: The Empire strikes back: The Ghanaian Impact on Methodism in London
  • Leachman, James: Preparation for the Piazza: The Preface of the Mass for the Second Scrutiny on the Fourth Sunday in Lent: mystagogical formation of the neophytes and the assembly
  • Mannooramparampil, Thomas: Encounter of the Syro-Malabar Liturgy with different secular and religious cultures
  • Marti, Andreas: Christliche Identität und religiöser Ausdruck im „geistlichen Volkslied“
  • Mélois, Bernadette: Les Enjeux d’une revue liturgique lorsqu’elle met la liturgie sur la place publique
  • Moolan, John: Death Rite Customs of St. Thomas Christians in Malabar
  • Morrill, Bruce: The Communion Procession: Site of a Public-Private Struggle in U.S. Catholicism
  • Post, Paul: Re-inventing Liturgical Space as Public Space: The New Jubilee Church in Tor Tre Teste (Rome) of Richard Meier
  • Poulet, Frédérique: La liturgie eucharistique, puissance de transformation, « crisis », au cœur de la violence
  • Pretot, Patrick: Les processions sur la voie publique
  • Quevedo Bosch, Juan: A Multimedia Attempt at Thick Description of the Palm Sunday Procession and Mass at a Hispanic Anglican Parish in New York City
  • Rouwhorst, G.: The Emergence of a public liturgy in the fourth century
  • Ryan, John Barry: Kateri Tekakwitha, “La Saincte Sauvagesse,” in Public Discourse Then and Now
  • Sheppy, Paul: Psalmody on the Building Site
  • Smith, Elisabeth: Ecumenical Good Friday Processions in Australia
  • Toury, Arnaud: La relation entre liturgie et spectacle dans l’oeuvre d’Olivier Messiaen
  • Van Tongeren, Louis: In the open air. Rituals outside the church in the late Middle Ages
  • Waibel, Artur: Liturgy on Television – Principles and Problems
  • Wepener, Cas and Müller, Bethel: Towards a missional liturgy
  • Whelan, Thomas: War Prayers in Missale Romanum (2002): “Political Correctness”,