Liturgical Week 1963
Implementing Vatican II
The Second Vatican Council drastically changed parts of the celebration of the Mass. Altars would face the congregation and the Mass could be said in the vernacular. Archbishop John J. Krol was keen to see these changes implemented as soon as they were allowed in Philadelphia. To that end, he invited the Liturgical Conference, an association of American clergy and laity that promotes understanding of the liturgy, to hold its 24th Annual North American Liturgical Week in the city. His goal was to have “full, active participation of the congregation to the extent permitted by the Holy Father.”
Altering the Altar
The four-day program which ran from August 19th to the 22nd, would include sessions, meetings, and art displays. The keystone event was Archbishop Krol’s opening Mass, which featured a simple altar facing the congregation. Although not the first Mass to be celebrated facing the congregation in the United States, it was still an unusual sight. While the Mass was still celebrated in Latin, all the lectures and discussions focused on how the Mass of the future would look. The 1963 Liturgical Week proved to be the most successful up to that time with over 20,000 people attending the Masses and sessions, breaking the previous year’s record of 5,000 people.
Exhibits and Displays
In addition to the Masses and discussion sessions, the week also featured exhibit spaces at the Civic Center. Exhibits included displays and stands presented by various Catholic organizations, as well as art interpreting new themes of Vatican II.
Keeping the Changes Going
Archbishop Krol would continue the themes of change shown during the Liturgical Week in implementing further changes to the Mass. He would celebrate the first Solemn Mass in English in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on November 29, 1964, the first day such a vernacular Mass was allowed by the Vatican. In addition, Krol wanted the parishes to roll out these changes as quickly as possible and issued a number of manuals and directions to guide pastors and congregations in implementing the changes.