A generation ago, before John Paul II was pope, even those who were in favor of ecclesiastical innovation might have been shocked at the idea of applause in church. Yet when the Papal Nuncio to Washington gave the homily at the Pope’s funeral mass in St. Matthew’s Cathedral there, the congregation responded with the theater’s traditional gesture of appreciation. My impression is that the new custom of applause in church arose in America in the later years of John Paul’s pontificate, but they were applauding in St. Peter’s Square in Rome too, which suggests that it has now spread around the world. Probably it is too late to rein in the enthusiasm of communicants for clapping in appreciation of their pastors’ efforts, yet it may just be worth pointing out that there was a reason why applause once seemed out of place in church and it was not just because of tradition, stuffiness, or a hidebound unwillingness...


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