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Rites, Congregation of


On Jan. 22, 1588, Sixtus V established a Congregation of Sacred Rites and Ceremonies as a part of his systematic arrangement of the Roman congregations. Before long the distinct Ceremonial Congregation assumed responsibility for the ceremonial of the papal court and from that time the Congregation of Sacred Rites remained practically unchanged until the end of the 19th century.

The work of the Congregation fell naturally into two categories: (1) worship in general, including supervision over rites, restoration and reform of ceremonies, reform and correction of liturgical service books, solution of controversies, concession of feasts of saints; and (2) the processes of beatification and canonization. Once the liturgical books authorized by the Council of Trent were published, the Congregation did not substantially reform them until the 20th century, so that its liturgical activity is represented principally by decrees and responses to difficulties rather than by revision of the liturgy.

In order to balance the Congregation's traditional preoccupation with beatification and canonization, Leo XIII added two commissions: (1) the Liturgical Commis sion (1891) to codify past decrees and to advise the Congregation on liturgical questions; and (2) the Historicoliturgical Commission (1902) to settle historical questions, with special reference to the eventual reform of the liturgical books. Pius X added a third commission, for ecclesiastical music, in 1904.

In the general reform of the Curia by Pius X (1908), the Congregation of Rites was restricted in its competence to matters directly related to sacred worship (in addition to the cult of the saints, as before). Questions of precedence and of the discipline of the sacraments (as distinct from the rite of the sacraments) were transferred to other congregations.

A further reorganization was decreed by Pius X in 1914. He suppressed the three attached commissions and set up two sections of the Congregation itself, one for beatification and canonization, the other for sacred rites. Still later, Pius XI strengthened the Congregation by establishing a third, historical, section in 1930. Its purpose is to engage in historical research necessary for beatification and canonization processes and for the emendation of the liturgical books.

In order to resume the liturgical reform initiated by Pius X, Pius XII in 1948 established a new body attached to the Congregation, the Pontifical Commission for the General Restoration of the Liturgy. This commission undertook a partial revision of the Roman Missal, Breviary, and Pontifical. The reform of all the liturgical books of the Roman rite, which was decreed on Dec. 4, 1963, by Vatican Council II, was entrusted by Paul VI to a new body, the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy rather than to the Congregation of Rites (motu proprio Sacram liturgicam, Jan. 25, 1964). The general reform of the Roman Curia by Paul VI in 1967 left the Congregation of Rites relatively unaf fected. In the apostolic constitution, Sacra Rituum, dated May 8, 1969, the Congregation of Rites was divided into two separate entities: the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

See Also: divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments, congregation for.

Bibliography: f. r. mcmanus, The Congregation of Sacred Rites in Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies 352 (Washington 1954). Decreta authentica Congregationis Sacrorum Rituum, 7 v. (Rome 18981927).

[f. r. mcmanus/eds.]

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