1912 – 1982
1912 – 1982
With the twentieth anniversary of the Constitution on the Liturgy before us next December, we recall with gratitude the life of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who died suddenly in Rome last July after minor surgery. Born near Orvieto in 1912, he entered the Lazarists, was ordained a priest in 1936, and then devoted almost the whole of his career to reform of the liturgy. At the time of his death he was serving as apostolic pro-nuncio to Iran. He held this position under both the Shah and the revolutionary regime, which witnesses to his skills as diplomat and peacemaker. His willingness to continue this difficult work, despite his own desire to return to pastoral ministry in his native Umbria, was characteristic of his responsiveness to the needs of the church.
He is best known to readers of Worship for his work in liturgical renewal and reform. In his almost twenty years as editor-in-chief of Ephemerides Liturgicae (from 1944) he set a high standard of scientific scholarship. From 1948 until 1975 he served on a number of Roman commissions for liturgical renewal, first as secretary of the commission that instituted the reforms of the Easter Vigil (1951), Holy Week (1955), and the code of rubrics (1960). He helped to establish the last editiones typicae of the preconciliar missal, breviary, and pontifical (1962). In 1960 he was also named secretary of the commission deputed to prepare for the further liturgical reform expected from the recently announced Second Vatican Council. Instrumental in securing the development and adoption of the Constitution on the Liturgy, he served as secretary of both the conciliar liturgical commission and the postconciliar Consilium. With the creation of the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1972 he was made secretary and named titular Archbishop of Diocletianum. He served the Congregation until 1975.
The knowledge and great tact required to help prepare and implement the liturgical reforms since 1948 are obvious. Insight, courage, and patience, guided by a deep pastoral sense and avoidance of either reactionary or unrealistically progressive positions, enabled him to provide steady leadership for the official development of the revised rites. His willingness to help institute policies with which he may personally have disagreed commands our respect. Despite the inevitable discontent with the progress of reform, whether the complaint be of too great or too little action, all sense that without Bugnini things could have been far worse. His legacy to us is his example of consistent devotion to understanding and renewing the church’s life of prayer.
Tribute from Worship, vol. 57, no. 2, March 1983, pg. 157. Reprinted with permission.