July 12, 2011

Papal Ceremonial - History and Meaning

‘You are surely well aware that this Apostolic See has always made careful provision for the schooling of the people committed to its charge in the correct spirit and practice of the liturgy; and that it has been no less careful to insist that the sacred rites should be performed with due external dignity.’ The words spoken by Pius XII in Mediator Dei [1] encyclical demonstrate that the endeavours of successive popes, and effectively the Holy See, to unify the liturgical rites, were not purposeless. They were to raise the spirits and hearts of the faithful to cherish God more, and sensitise them to the extraordinary mysteries entrusted us by Christ in the liturgy. The papal ceremonials composed especially for the Roman Curia and the Papal Court stand out in the history of liturgical books for the preparation and celebration of the sacred rites. This subject is somewhat alien to extensive liturgical writings on the development of liturgical books (especially in Poland) [2] , so we shall endeavour to present it appropriately.

[1] Quote: J. Wierusz – Kowalski (transl.), Ojca Świętego Piusa XII, z Boskiej Opatrzności Papieża Encyklika o Liturgii (Mediator Dei) of 20 November 1957, Kielce 1948, p. 30.

[2] In the past decades, there appeared studies about books published for the use by the Roman Curia, but nothing more extensive dedicated to the papal ceremonial. Some information may be found in various general studies, dictionaries or encyclopaedias. Worth noting is the study by B. Schimmelpfennig, Die Zeremonienbücher der römischen Kirche im Mittelalter, Tübingen 1973, where he complied and described the medieval papal ceremonial.