IL History

A new proposal for an Institutum Liturgicum in England and Wales

Serving the wider Church by promoting excellence

A great deal has been accomplished in the promotion of Liturgy in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland over the last two hundred years.

The classical liturgical movement began with the work of Abbot Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875) founder of Solesmes and the pastoral liturgical movement with the work of Dom Lambert Beauduin (1873-1960), founder of Amay-Chevetogne. Abbot Fernand Cabrol, Abbot of Farnborough (1903-1937), was another  promoter of liturgical studies in England.

In England, Anscar Vonier, Abbot of Buckfast Abbey (1906-1938), responding to the promotion of frequent communion by Pope Pius X (1903-1914), in 1925 published the book A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist in which he affirmed the royal priesthood of all the baptised. Controversial in its time, this insight was affirmed by the Second Vatican Council.

There was a little-known proposal by Mgr James Crichton to establish a national Liturgical Institute already as early as the 1950’s; and in 1962, the vice-president Society of St Gregory, Fr Joseph Connelly, referred to the necessity of having a Liturgy Centre and priests, detached from other duties.
The Second Vatican Council (1963-1965) provided dogmatic and pastoral constitutions that would indicate the way ahead.

The first proposal to establish an institute was by Fr Harold Winstone, who desired that the St Thomas More Centre of Pastoral Liturgy in North London, established in 1969, become the official National Liturgical Centre. Abbot Francis Rossiter OSB and Fr Edmund Flood OSB, both of Ealing Abbey, were members of  the original “Council of Reference” for the project, and it contributed a great deal for nearly twenty years until 1995.

The National Centre for Liturgy, Ireland, established in 1973, is now part of St Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth.

A second proposal in Britain, a little later, enshrined in the report“Living Liturgy” was commissioned and accepted by the bishops of England and Wales in 1981, though no centre or institute was established

From 1995 to 2002 a joint Anglican-Roman Catholic Institute for Liturgy and Mission existed in Salibury, with Canon Chris Walsh as director until June 2001 (see Liturgy Newsletter 1/4 August 2001, p 2). The institute was succeeded on the Church of England side by the Mirfield Liturgical Institute in 2007. All this patient preparation, study and work by many in the field of liturgical study, research and pastoral care over the years, have brought much spiritual fruit to Catholics in Britain and Ireland.

Today in 2011, Sarum College offers an MA in Liturgy, the Mirfield Liturgical Institute offers an MA in Liturgy and Pastoral Studies, and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth offers a Master’s Degree in Theology with specialisation in Liturgy, the highest qualifications in liturgy available in our islands.

Yet, after another nearly thirty years since the second proposal there still is no Liturgical Institute with a dedicated staff of trained professors in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland where students can adequately be trained to do research or to serve on liturgical commissions. AnInstitutum Liturgicum would be able to complement already existing awards, by undertaking research and publishing and by offering accredited courses and seminars.

A third proposal: On Saturday 12 September 2009 at the suggestion of Fr Ephrem Carr, OSB abbot Cuthbert Brogan and abbot Martin Shipperlee, Fr James Leachman, OSB and Fr Daniel McCarthy, OSB agreed to serve on a board to establish a faculty of Liturgy and a Liturgical Institute in the United Kingdom, which would aim to complement the work of other providers of liturgy teaching in these islands. They wrote to Fr Juan Javier Flores Arcas, OSB, the Preside of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy at the time, to ask permission to organise the teaching of PIL courses in English in the UK.

On Thursday 12 November 2009 the Council of the Preside of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy accepted the proposal of the IL board to organise the teaching of some PIL courses in the UK, beginning Summer 2011 for a period of five years. This ratification was renewed in 2016.

On Friday 26 March 2010 two of the board members visited Dean of the faculty of theology of the Catholic University of Leuven to request accreditation of courses. On 26 August 2010 the faculty informed us that our request for university accreditation has been accepted. On 24 September at Edward King House, Lincoln, Fr James and Fr Daniel announced the opening of the Institutum in July 2011. There followed a press release to The Tablet, which appeared in edited fashion on 2 October.

On Tuesday 16 November 2010 the Committee for Life and Worship of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales generously endorsed the project on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

On Monday 12 July 2011 the abbots of Ealing and Farnborough, Bishop Alan Hopes and Prof Joris Geldhof of KU Leuven inaugurated the Institutum Liturgicum. Teaching began on the following day. Prof Stefan Geiger joined the faculty in 2020. Past Associate faculty include Dr Bridget Nichols and Dr Vika Lebzyak; present Associate faculty include p Geert Leenknegt and Rev Dr Gregory Carey O.S.B.

The Institutum Liturgicum complements the continuing work of the Liturgy and Worship programme at Sarum College, the work of the Mirfield Liturgical Institute, and the Liturgy Newsletter produced by the bishops’ Liturgy Office by undertaking research and publishing and by offering courses at different levels.

The Institutum Liturgicum has no permanent home.

Classical Liturgical Movement in England and Wales

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© James Leachman, O.S.B.,  updated 3 February 2020