Cardinal Sarah encourages celebrating Mass facing the Lord
June 17, 2016
In an interview that appeared on May 26, 2016, in the pages of the French weekly magazine Famille Chrétienne, Cardinal Robert Sarah declared that “the liturgy is in danger.” The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments deplores the fact that, in the so-called “Ordinary” rite, “man seeks to take God’s place” and that “the liturgy runs the risk of becoming merely a human game.” The prelate from Guinea regrets that many Masses “become spectacles” in which the priest no longer celebrates “the love of Christ through His sacrifice” but rather “a meeting of friends, a convivial meal, a fraternal moment”.
Cardinal Robert Sarah.
“In seeking to invent creative or festive liturgies,” Cardinal Sarah also warns, “we run the risk of making our worship too human and bringing it down to the level of our desires and of momentary fads.... The danger is immense, because God disappears.” He adds: “I am convinced that the whole crisis that the Church is going through... results from the fact that God’s presence in the Eucharist is not noticed or is denied in practice.”
In his opinion, the main reason why contemporary liturgy is adrift is “the priest’s position turned toward the people”, which sometimes makes the assembly a “community closed in on itself” and no longer “open, either to the world to come or to Heaven”. The priest must not be “the center, the main protagonist of the Eucharistic celebration”, Cardinal Sarah insists, because “the faithful did not come to speak to the priest but to God.”
In order “to put God back at the center of the liturgy”, the high-ranking prelate proposed “celebrating—priests and lay faithful both—facing the same direction together: toward the Lord who comes”. This is because the problem is not “celebrating with one’s back turned toward the faithful or facing them” but rather “turning together toward the apse, which symbolizes the East where the cross of the Risen Lord is enthroned”. The Cardinal denounces wrong interpretations of Vatican Council II, which “never asked priests to celebrate facing the people”.
The Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments finally assures the interviewer that Pope Francis recently confirmed that the new translations of the Roman Missal “absolutely must respect the Latin”. In French, he notes in this regard, “the translation of the Orate frates, at the Offertory, was truncated.”
Commenting on this interview in Famille Chrétienne, the website Riposte catholique stressed on May 26, 2016, that “many young priests, who have no complexes, welcomed these recommendations.” And it wondered: “Will they follow them?” This question raises others: “What French bishop will adopt as his own the recommendations of the Cardinal of the Holy Church? Will the Cardinal Prefect for the liturgy be heard by the bishops of France? And if so, by how many?”
(Sources: apic/riposte catholique/famille chrétienne – DICI no. 337 dated June 17, 2016)
Cardinal Sarah’s clarifications on the upcoming synod