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Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, is one of the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council. It was approved by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,147 to 4 and promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963. The main aim was to achieve greater lay participation in the Catholic Church's liturgy.


The numbers given correspond to section numbers within the text.

  1. Introduction (1-4)
  2. General Principles for the Restoration and Promotion of the Sacred Liturgy (5-46)
    1. The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church's Life (5-13)
    2. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation (14-20)
    3. The Reform of the Sacred Liturgy (21-46)
      1. General Norms (22-25)
      2. Norms Drawn from the Hierarchic and Communal Nature of the Liturgy (26-32)
      3. Norms Based Upon the Didactic and Pastoral Nature of the Liturgy (33-36)
      4. Norms for Adapting the Liturgy to the Culture and Traditions of Peoples (37-40)
      5. Promotion of Liturgical Life in Diocese and Parish (41-42)
      6. The Promotion of Pastoral-Liturgical Action (43-46)
  3. The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist (47-58)
  4. The Other Sacraments and the Sacramentals (59-82)
  5. The Divine Office (83-101)
  6. The Liturgical Year (102-111)
  7. Sacred Music (112-121)
  8. Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings (122-130)
  9. Appendix: A Declaration of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican on Revision of the Calendar

Title and purpose

As is customary with Catholic documents, the name of this Constitution, "Sacred Council" in Latin, is taken from the first line of the document:

1. This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. The Council therefore sees particularly cogent reasons for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy. (--Sacrosanctum Concilium)

Participation of the laity

One of the first issues considered by the council, and the matter that had the most immediate effect on the lives of individual Catholics, was the revision of the liturgy. The central idea was that there ought to be greater lay participation in the liturgy.

"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4–5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism." (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14)

Many have claimed that Vatican II went much further in encouraging "active participation" than previous Popes had allowed or recommended. Though Popes Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII consistently asked that the people be taught how to chant the responses at Mass and that they learn the prayers of the Mass in order to participate intelligently, while for its part, Vatican II never asked for the involvement of the laity in the sanctuary that is typical of post-conciliar practice. The council fathers established guidelines to govern the revision of the liturgy, which included allowed and encouraged greater use of the vernacular (native language) instead of Latin, particularly for the biblical readings and other prayers. As bishops determined, local or national customs could be cautiously incorporated into the liturgy.


Implementation of the Council's directives on the liturgy was carried out under the authority of Pope Paul VI by a special papal commission, later incorporated in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and, in the areas entrusted to them, by national conferences of bishops, which, if they had a shared language, were expected to collaborate in producing a common translation.

See also: Mass of Paul VI, Liturgy

See also

Further reading

  • Linden, Ian, Global Catholicism: diversity and change since Vatican II (London, Hurst and Co., 2009), p. 337.
  • Kenneth D. Whitehead (ed), Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Reform of the Liturgy: Proceedings from the 29th Annual Convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars (Scranton (PA), University of Scranton Press, 2009), 210 pp.
  • Sinke Guimarães, Atila (1997) (in English). In the Murky Waters of Vatican II. Metairie: MAETA. ISBN 1889168068. 
  • Amerio, Romano (1996) (in English). Iota Unum. Kansas City: Sarto House. ISBN 0963903217. 

External links

cs:Sacrosanctum concilium eo:Sacrosanctum Concilium id:Sacrosanctum Concilium sw:Sacrosanctum Concilium la:Sacrosanctum Concilium pt:Sacrosanctum Concilium sk:Sacrosanctum Concilium sl:Sacrosanctum Concilium sv:Sacrosanctum Concilium