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British bishops give reassurance on altar girls

A statement from the Bishops of England and Wales has announced that altar girls will retain the backing of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The statement, released earlier this week, said the clarification had emerged after discussion at a recent meeting at the Vatican. The British Bishops discussed with the Congregation the much-leaked draft instruction concerning Eucharsitic abuses, requested by the Pope in the recent Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

Afterwards, Bishops' Conference liturgy adviser Fr Allen Morris said that while the text of the Instruction is yet to be finalised, "it is clear that bishops [will] remain free to authorise the ministry of girl altar girls in their dioceses".

He said the meeting also made it clear that Communion under both kinds would be encouraged. Another contentious issue - liturgical dance, or "rhythmic movement" - will remain authorised, but only if it is "indigenous to a local culture, most commonly in Asia or Africa".

Fr Morris, who is Secretary of the Bishops' Conference's Department for Christian Life and Worship, added that his understanding from the meeting was that "the practice of interpolating dance and other 'entertainments' into the liturgy, in ways more common in Europe and North America, continues to be considered inappropriate."

Chairman of the Department for Christian Life and Worship Bishop Mark Jabale said the Congregation's Cardinal Arinze was issuing the instruction in response to particular instances of liturgical abuse.

Altar girls set to retain backing of the Holy See (Catholic Church in England and Wales)

Altar Girls Still Have Backing of Holy See (Zenit)
Pope calls on Bishops of England and Wales to face advance of secularism (Catholic Church in England and Wales)
British bishops urged to confront secularization (Catholic World News)
Reprieve for altar girls after Vatican backdown (31/10/03)
Australian Church official dismisses liturgical 'kite-flying' (25/9/03)
New document on Eucharist delayed by debates within Vatican (Catholic World News)
Magazine says Vatican set to ban altar girls (24/9/03)
Fishing at the Vatican: Journalists not sure what they're catching (Catholic News Service 26/9/03)
Vatican says Bishops cannot require priests to use altar girls (4/1/02)
Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia of His Holiness Pope John Paul II (full text, Vatican website)

24 Oct 2003