Imagine my surprise to find this story splashed on the front page of the Washington Post - a profile of the papal master of ceremonies:
In Rome on a rainy Christmas Eve, Pope Benedict XVI followed a procession of Swiss guards, bishops and priests down the central nave of St. Peter’s Basilica to celebrate midnight Mass before dignitaries and a global television audience.
A tall, reed-thin cleric with a receding hairline and wire-framed glasses, Marini, 45, perched behind the pope’s left shoulder, bowed with him at the altar and adjusted the pontiff’s lush robes. As Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, he shadows the pope’s every move and makes sure that every candle, Gregorian chant and gilded vestment is exactly as he, the pope and God intended it to be.
“The criterion is that it is beautiful,” Marini said.
But beauty, especially when it comes to the rituals of Roman Catholic liturgy, is a topic of great debate between conservative and liberal Catholics, who share differing views on everything from the music and language of the Mass to where a priest should stand and how he should give Communion.
Some of the key trappings of the Mass – the vestments and vernacular, the “smells and bells” – have taken on a more ancient air since Benedict succeeded John Paul II, and since Marini succeeded Piero Marini.
Piero, 68, is a gruff Vatican veteran, a progressive who advocates a more modern ritual that reflects the great church reforms of the 1960s. The younger and more punctilious Guido, who is not related to Piero, has argued for more traditional liturgical symbols and gestures – like the pope’s preference that the faithful kneel to accept Communion – that some church liberals interpret as the harbinger of a counter-reformation.
The coincidence of their shared last names has resulted in YouTube links like “Battle of the Marinis.” (“These things on the YouTube are fun but not important,” said Marini the Second.) But within Vatican and wider liturgical circles, the Marini schism is actually a profound one about the direction of the church.
The liturgical changes enacted under Guido Marini are “a great microcosm for broader shifts in the church,” said John Allen, a veteran Vatican watcher with the National Catholic Reporter.
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