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Bishop encourages priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem

An Old Rite Mass offered ad orientem (CNS)

Bishop James S. Wall also announced a weekly ad orientem Mass at his cathedral

The Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico has issued a letter encouraging his priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem and announced that one Sunday Mass at the cathedral will be celebrated ad orientem from now on.

In a message to his diocese, Bishop James S. Wall said celebrating the Mass ad orientem “is also a practice I would like to encourage throughout the Diocese of Gallup. I believe it is pastoral to offer Masses both ad orientem and versus populum, so that, together, we can all be exposed to the varied riches of the Church and Her prayerful history.”

Commenting on the recent letter of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that addressed the sexual abuse crisis and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, Wall emphasized “the option to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass facing “toward the East” (ad orientem) or “toward God” (ad Deum) as distinct from “toward the people” (versus populum).”

Wall commented on devotion to the Eucharist saying: “We would do well to remember, then, that the Eucharist is not simply a nice “sign” or “symbol” of communion with God, but rather truly is communion with God.”

“Let me say at the outset: I know this can be a contentious topic. To make changes to the way we pray can be difficult, especially when it comes to liturgical prayer. By explaining and advocating for this, I am in no way trying to disrupt the way the people of this Diocese pray”, Wall said.

“Rather, I am trying to open the treasury of the Church’s patrimony, so that, together, we can all experience one of the most ancient ways that the Church has always prayed, starting with Jesus and reaching even to our own day, and thereby learn from the “ever ancient, ever new” wisdom of the Church.”

Noting that the celebration of Mass ad orientem “is one of the most ancient and most consistent practices in the life of the Church”, Wall said “versus populum worship is extremely new in the life of the Church, and, while a valid liturgical option today, it still must be considered novel when it comes to the celebration of Mass.”

Wall has served as Bishop of Gallup since 2009.