Pope Francis & Liturgical Dance

Hello. Officially, liturgical dance is not allowed in the Mass. Somehow I suspect that these recent words from Pope Francis will be misconstrued to support it:

"I wonder sometimes how many times we despise good people in our hearts, good people who praise the Lord as it comes to them, so spontaneously, because they are not cultured, because they do not follow the formalities? * despise [them]? The Bible says that, because of this, Michal remained sterile for the rest of her life. What does the Word of God mean, here? [It means] that joy, that the prayer of praise makes us fruitful! Sarah danced in the great moment of her fecundity – at the age of ninety! The fruitfulness that praise of the Lord gives us, the gratuity of praising the Lord: that man or that woman who praises the Lord, who prays praising the Lord, who, when praying the Gloria is filled with joy at doing so, and who, when singing the Sanctus in the Mass rejoices in singing it, is a fruitful person.”

Text from page en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/01/28/pope_francis_at_daily_mass:the_fruitfulness_of_praise/en1-768047
of the Vatican Radio website

How do we respond to this? Thank you.*

I suspect that saying that liturgical dance is not allowed in the Mass is not a true statement, to begin with. But this had been discussed a lot here already.

In 1975, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship issued Dance in the Liturgy, which it declared is to be treated as “an authoritative point of reference for every discussion on the matter.”

The document noted that although there are cultures in which dance retains a religious character and could be permitted in liturgy,

the same criterion and judgment cannot be applied in the western culture. Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses. . . . For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: That would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements, and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.

Exactly. There are cultures where this is indeed appropriate. Cardinal Arinze mentions this in this video.


The Church cannot forbid liturgical dance in the Mass as anyone familiar with the rubrics can tell you. But you will have to think about this to understand it. And I don’t think I need to add anything further.

Reb Levi

What bases is thereto the statement that the Church cannot forbid liturgical dance? That statement seems funny, as in strange, as it would mean that the Church does not have authority over the Mass.

I think the post was meant more in the sense that even if the Church does/did forbid liturgical dance (which in the West She does), some people would still do it anyway. Which is true.

Incorrect conclusion. One must be familiar with the rubrics to understand my statement.

Reb Levi

I can’t imagine why anyone would construe Pope Francis’s statement as support for liturgical dancing.

Unless one is seriously for or against liturgical dancing, it’s pretty much not what the everyday, average Catholic occupies their mind with. Therefore, the mental leap would not have been taken.

Digression Alert!!! - It reminds me in a way of how much I noticed pregnant women once I was pregnant also.

Yup! Here are some examples of liturgical dance during the liturgy:

*]World Youth Day in Sydney where you have native peoples dancing while processing the Book of the Gospels to the deacon. youtube.com/watch?v=YMgUaeejl2Q
*]Christmas Mass in Congo - youtube.com/watch?v=PxxTG9Wo2-Y
*]Transitional Diaconate Ordination in Kenya (Those deacons can dance!) - youtube.com/watch?v=bw49asb0QyA

Right. But for the US, there would be very little room for liturgical dance unless you had a congregation made up exclusively of refugees from the Congo. . .

The average U.S. parish has no members who come from a culture of non-Western dance. And the average ‘rendition’ of ‘liturgical dance’ from the 1970s on which were inflicted upon this type of parish used a kind of ‘interpretive dance’ that was strictly Western, a sort of pseudo-‘Grecian’ step-step-turn-raise the urn on high-waft to the side, swing and lower–step-step, put the urn down, raise arms, allow your diaphanous garments to flutter; leap like a gazelle onto the stage, oops, I mean, around the altar --raise arms to hold hands with ‘presider’, hold, hold, drop, and ‘waft’ back three paces to wait for the next dance moment. . .


I think this is quite right.

This is an arrogant statement.

The U.S. is unique in that it’s the only nation where almost exclusively its population is made up of immigrants who have brought their cultural traditions and customs with them to their new country, becoming a kind of “cultural missionary.” Due to the desegregation and integration of parishes from their once “national/ethnic parish” roots, we’ve begun to see a sort of “organic adoption” of “liturgical dance” unknown anywhere else in the world. Especially in large dioceses, like my own, you may see a “Celebration of Cultures Mass” like this one we have every year: youtube.com/watch?v=H5O9uVG-RWM


Pope John Paul II used African and Latin American drummers and AFRICAN DANCERS at his Papal Masses, presumably only for the entrance and exit processions.

I have been involved in the Charismatic Renewal since Dec. 1973, besides being a contemplative Camaldolese Benedictine monk for 51 years, and I attend 2 Catholic Charismatic Conventions virtually every year. In addition, I have attended 4 Ecumenical Charismatic Conventions, one of which had 50,000 people, another 40,000. I have danced in praise of God at most of these conventions.

The last 2 Psalms tell us to dance in praise of the Lord. There is a world of difference between praising God with spontaneous dancing — one’s whole being is put into the praise — and Western social dancing. Liturgical dancing can also be very prayerful, in a different way, and is and has been used only during the entrance and exit processions. It would, of course, be totally out of place for the dancers to dance during the more important parts of the Mass.

The Church most certainly CAN forbid dance. BTW, there is no such thing as “liturgical” dance.

Any dancing that was done was just dance (nothing liturgical about it), and took place either after or before Mass. During the Mass dance (“liturgical” or otherwise) is forbidden.

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