"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Friday, 7 October 2016


This article by Sandro Magister is a very good example of news interpreted to fit a newsman's agenda.   The facts are there, but I believe that the interpretation is haywire.   The reform of the reform will happen:  Cardinal Sarah wants it, and Pope Francis has indicated quite publicly that he is in favour of its main aims; but, while Cardinal Sarah's Congregation will provide material, it will be the bishops, not the Vatican, who will put it into practice. What are universal, regional and local synods for?

After the World Youth Day, Pope Francis spoke about the Orthodox liturgy and what the West can learn from it.  He said this in a news conference:

my source: The New Liturgical Movement
In the Orthodox Churches they have kept that pristine liturgy, so beautiful. We have lost a bit the sense of adoration. They keep, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time doesn’t count. God is the center, and this is a richness that I would like to say on this occasion in which you ask me this question. Once, speaking of the Western Church, of Western Europe, especially the Church that has grown most, they said this phrase to me: “Lux ex oriente, ex occidente luxus.” Consumerism, wellbeing, have done us so much harm. Instead  you keep this beauty of God at the center, the reference.  When one reads Dostoyevsky – I believe that for us all he must be an author to read and reread, because he has wisdom – one perceives what the Russian spirit is, the Eastern spirit. It’s something that will do us so much good. We are in need of this renewal, of this fresh air of the East, of this light of the East. John Paul II wrote it in his Letter. But so many times the luxus of the West makes us lose the horizon. I don’t know, it came to me to say this. Thank you

Pope Francis attitude to liturgy in general, but most especially the Mass, he expressed in a morning meditation in the Domus Sanctae Marthae on February 10th, 2014:  

You came here, we are gathered here, to enter into the mystery. And this is the liturgy”.
To explain the meaning of this encounter with the mystery, Pope Francis said that the Lord has spoken to his people not only with words. “The prophets”, he said “recounted the Lord’s words. The prophets proclaimed them. The great prophet Moses gave the commandments, which is the Word of God. Many other prophets too have told the people what the Lord wanted”. However, “the Lord”, he added, “also spoke in another way and in another form to his people: with theophanies. That is, when he comes close to his people and makes them feel, makes them feel his presence among them”. The Pope referred to the First Reading (1 Kgs 8:1-7, 9-13) which speaks of other prophets.
“The same thing happens in the Church”, the Pope said. He does this through his Word which is recounted in the Gospels and in the Bible; he speaks through catechesis, through homilies. He not only speaks to us but “he makes himself present”, the Pope said, “in the midst of his people, in the midst of his Church. The Lord’s presence is there. The Lord draws close to his people; he is present with his people and shares his time with them”. This is what is taking place during this liturgical celebration, which is certainly “not a social affair”, he said, “nor a gathering for the faithful to pray together. It is something else”, because “in the Eucharistic liturgy God is present” and, if possible, he makes himself present in “the closest way”. His presence, the Pope said, “is a real presence”. “When I speak of liturgy”, the Pope explained, “I am mainly referring to the Holy Mass. When we celebrate the Mass, we are not representing the Last Supper”. The Mass “is not a representation; it is something else. It truly is the Last Supper; it is truly living again the redemptive passion and death of Our Lord. It is a visible manifestation: the Lord makes himself present on the altar to be offered to the Father for the salvation of the world”.

Pope Francis then gave examples, as he usually does, of actions that are common among the faithful: “We hear and we say, ‘I cannot now, I have to go to Mass, I have to go to listen to Mass’. But you do not listen to Mass, you participate in it. And you are participating in a visible manifestation, in the mystery of the Lord’s presence among us”. It is something that is different from all other forms of our devotion, he pointed out, using the example of the living nativity scenes “that are organized by parishes at Christmas time, or the Way of the Cross that we do during Holy Week”. These, he explained, are representations; the Eucharist is “a real commemoration, a theophany. God draws near and is with us as we participate in the mystery of redemption”.
The Pope then referred to another very common behaviour among Christians: “How many times”, he noted “do we count the minutes... ‘I only have a half an hour, I have to go to Mass...’”. This “is not the right attitude that the liturgy asks of us: the liturgy is God’s time and space, and we must put ourselves there in God’s time, in God’s space, without looking at our watches. The liturgy is precisely entering into the mystery of God; bringing ourselves to the mystery and being present in the mystery”.
We must remember that Cardinal Sarah is Pope Francis' appointment as head of liturgy; but it must be also remembered that Pope Francis has said that he believes that the Church is, by its very nature, synodal in organisation "with Peter" and "under Peter"  He is reducing numbers of people who work in the Vatican and is building up the synods.
Taking the eucharistic ecclesiology of Vatican II as more profound than the institutionalist ecclesiology of Vatican I, it is clear that the ever-living source of Tradition is the Holy Spirit that comes down on the bread and wine and on the people at Mass to transform, to strengthen and to  change, in a community that has its roots in the Apostolic preaching.  A pope who accepts this, remembering that the celebration of Mass is always a local event, will await the response of local and regional churches to see how the call to "liturgical awe" is lived out, rather than rushing to control it from the centre.  After all, it is in the Eucharist that the Holy Spirit is invoked on the bread and wine and on the people at the epiclesis, so that the nearer to the Eucharistic celebration, the nearer we are to the source of all the Church's powers: inspiration for the whole Church usually travels from the local to the universal.
  This is enough explanation needed to interpret what he said to Cardinal Sarah and what he did when Cardinal Sarah attempted to orchestrate the "reform of the reform" himself.  Pope Francis wants to make room for local and regional decision making.  It is also true that, while he agrees with Cardinal Sarah that liturgy should be God-centred, that at Mass we are participating in a theophany, he does not link this so strongly with "Mass facing East", nor with going back to Trent and an adoption of the old ways.  He is a traditionalist as all Catholics have to be, but he is not a "conservative.

Here is the Vatican press release on Cardinal Sarah and the "reform of the reform":

VATICAN STATEMENT: The following is a working translation of the Vatican press statement made by America’s Vatican correspondent, in the absence of an official translation.

A clarification is opportune following news reports circulating in the media after a conference held in London some days ago by Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned for the dignity of the celebration of the Mass, in a way that expresses adequately the attitude of respect and adoration for the Eucharistic mystery.Some expressions were nevertheless badly interpreted as if they announced new indications differing from those given to-date in the liturgical norms and in the words of the pope on the celebration (looking) towards the people and on the ordinary rite of Mass.It is therefore good to recall that in the General Order of the Roman Missale (Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani), that contains the norms relating to the Eucharistic celebration and (which) are still fully in force, No. 299 states that “the altar is built separated from the wall, so as to be able to move around it easily and to celebrate looking towards the people, which thing is convenient to realize wherever possible. The altar is to be place in a way so as to really constitute the center towards which the attention of the people spontaneously converges.”Pope Francis, for his part, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery (Congregation for Divine Worship) has expressly recalled that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of the Mass is that envisaged by the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while that “extraordinary” (form), which was permitted by by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and the modalities explained by him in the Motu Proprio “Summorum Ponticium,” must not take the place of the “ordinary” (form).There are therefore no new liturgical directives beginning from next Advent, as someone has improperly deduced from some words of Cardinal Sarah, and it is better to avoid using the expression “the reform of the reform,” in referring to the liturgy, given that this has sometimes been the source of misunderstanding.Significantly, the Vatican communique added that “all this was expressly agreed during a recent audience given by the pope to the said Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.”

At the very beginning, the press release says that Cardinal Sarah's motivation is beyond reproach.
 Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned for the dignity of the celebration of the Mass, in a way that expresses adequately the attitude of respect and adoration for the Eucharistic.
Pope Francis has shown us that he wants this too. However, he wants the Ordinary Rite to keep its integrity as expressed in the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani.  Thus, if Cardinal Sarah were to insert the Tridentine rite's Offertory prayers into the Offertory as a free choice, this does not go against his charge to continue Pope Benedict's process; but if any structural reform or move towards structural reform is necessary, it must be left to a higher authority which, I suspect, will be the bishops at one of the three levels at which they exercise their collegiality.

This interpretation does not charge Pope Francis with inconsistency, nor does it accuse the two popes at being in conflict, something both deny.   To drop Pope Benedict's phrase 'reform of the reform' shows no disrespect for him, but is only said because it raises the hopes of the "conservatives" unrealistically: they interpret it as a return to a past that few of them knew. Also, there is no logical connection between condemning liturgical abuse and adopting Cardinal Sarah's suggestions: there are other views among liturgists and bishops that deserve respect and consideration.

Here is Sandro Magister's article.

The Reform of the Reform “Will Happen.” The Pope Wants It, Too
This is what Francis has said in private to Cardinal Sarah, only to deny the whole thing afterward in a statement. But the prefect of the liturgy is promising it once again, in a book of his that goes on sale today, entitled “The Power of Silence” 

by Sandro Magister

ROME, October 6, 2016 – With Cardinal Robert Sarah Pope Francis cultivates a relationship with two distinct profiles. Benevolent up front, hostile at a distance.

Sarah is presumed to be one of those churchmen with a “heart of stone” against whom the pope often lashes out without naming names, for example in the address at the end of the synod last October 24:

> "The closed hearts which hide behind the Church’s teachings…"

And it was Sarah, this time with first and last name, in his capacity as prefect of the congregation for divine worship, who was the target of an unprecedented, humiliating statement from the press office of the Holy See this summer, against his aims for a “reform of the reform” of the liturgy:

> Jesus Will Return From the East. But at the Vatican They Have Lost the Compass (14.7.2016)

“But who can touch him? He is African, and he enjoys great popularity,” they murmur in the court of Pope Francis.

In effect Cardinal Sarah, 71, an African from Guinea, is a figure of the first rank in today’s Church, who has risen to extraordinary notoriety and universal admiration thanks to a book he published last year that is both autobiography and spiritual mediation, in the style of the “Confessions,” entitled “Dieu ou rien,” God or nothing: 335,000 copies sold in thirteen languages:

> A Pope from Black Africa (10.4.2015)

And now Sarah is returning to the field with a major new book: “La force du silence,” the power of silence. It is edited, like the one before it, by Nicolas Diat and concludes with a poignant conversation between the cardinal and the abbot of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps, dom Dysmas de Lassus.

The book goes on sale today, the feast of Saint Bruno, founder of Carthusian monasticism, for now only in a French edition by Fayard, but it will be released soon in Italian, English, and Spanish, published respectively by Cantagalli, Ignatius Press, and Palabra.

“Contre la dictature du bruit,” against the dictatorship of noise, the subtitle says. And in effect the deafening noise of modern society, with has even penetrated into the Church, is the soundtrack of that “nothing” which is forgetfulness of God, the focus of the previous book.

While vice versa it is only silence that allows one to “hear the music of God.”

Sarah’s meditation touches deeply upon the life of the Church. There are frequent references to the liturgy and to the often disordered forms in which it is celebrated today, meaning to that “divine worship” which is the cardinal’s purview as prefect.

Some of these passages - both critical and encouraging - are reproduced below.

And there is one of them in particular - the last one presented here - that demonstrates how Cardinal Sarah is by no means acquiescent in the face of the continuous obstacles that are placed before him from every side.

It is there where the cardinal once again pledges firmly that “there will take place” that which the statement last summer had presumed to block: that “reform of the reform” in the liturgical camp without which “the future of the Church is at stake.”

Face to face Pope Francis had urged Sarah to proceed with this “reform of the reform,” in the audience, warm as always, that he had given him last April, as the cardinal himself had reported afterward.

But then, at a distance - and two days after a second friendly audience - the veto had been unleashed, in that treacherous statement in July, from an anonymous source but nonetheless approved from Santa Marta.

As a man of faith, Sarah professes obedience to the pope. Or at least to the first of the two Francises he finds before him.


“The reform of the reform will happen, the future of the Church is at stake”

by Robert Sarah

From “"La force du silence", Fayard, 2016


Some priests today treat the Eucharist with perfect disdain. They see the Mass as a chatty banquet where the Christians who are faithful to Jesus’ teaching, the divorced and remarried, men and women in a situation of adultery, unbaptized tourists participating in the Eucharistic celebrations of great anonymous crowds can have access to the body and blood of Christ, without distinction.

The Church must urgently examine the ecclesial and pastoral appropriateness of these immense Eucharistic celebrations made up of thousands and thousands of participants. There is a great danger here of turning the Eucharist, “the great mystery of Faith,” into a vulgar revel and of profaning the body and the precious blood of Christ. The priests who distribute the sacred species without knowing anyone, and give the Body of Jesus to all, without discernment between Christians and non-Christians, participate in the profanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist. Those who exercise authority in the Church become guilty, through a form of voluntary complicity, of allowing sacrilege and the profanation of the body of Christ to take place in these gigantic and ridiculous self-celebrations, where one can hardly perceive that “you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

Priests unfaithful to the “memory” of Jesus insist rather on the festive aspect and the fraternal dimension of the Mass than on the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The importance of the interior dispositions and the need to reconcile ourselves with God in allowing ourselves to be purified by the sacrament of confession are no longer fashionable nowadays. More and more, we obscure the warning of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill” (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-30).


At the beginning of our Eucharistic celebrations, how is it possible to eliminate Christ carrying his cross and walking painfully beneath the weight of our sins toward the place of sacrifice? There are many priests who enter triumphantly and go up to the altar, waving left and right in order to appear friendly. Observe the sad spectacle of certain Eucharistic celebrations. . . Why so much frivolity and worldliness at the moment of the Holy Sacrifice? Why so much profanation and superficiality before the extraordinary priestly grace that makes us capable of bringing forth the body and blood of Christ in substance by the invocation of the Spirit? Why do some believe themselves obliged to improvise or invent Eucharistic prayers that disperse the divine phrases in a bath of petty human fervor? Are the words of Christ so insufficient that a profusion of purely human words is needed? In a sacrifice so unique and essential, is there a need for this subjective imagination and creativity? “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” Jesus has cautioned us (Mt 6:7).


We have lost the deepest meaning of the offertory. Yet it is that moment in which, as its name indicates, the whole Christian people offers itself, not alongside of Christ, but in him, through his sacrifice that will be realized at the consecration. Vatican Council II admirably highlighted this aspect in insisting on the baptismal priesthood of the laity that essentially consists in offering ourselves together with Christ in sacrifice to the Father. [. . .]

If the offertory is seen as nothing other than a preparation of the gifts, as a practical and prosaic action, then there will be a great temptation to add and invent ceremonies in order to fill up what is perceived as a void. I deplore the offertory processions in some African countries, long and noisy, accompanied with interminable dances. The faithful bring all sorts of products and objects that have nothing to do with the Eucharistic sacrifice. These processions give the impression of folkloric exhibitions that disfigure the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and distance us from the Eucharistic mystery; but this must be celebrated in sobriety and recollection, since we are immersed, we too, in his death and his offering to the Father. The bishops of my continent should take measures to keep the celebration of the Mass from becoming a cultural self-celebration. The death of God out of love for us is beyond all culture. 

“FACING EAST” (par. 254)

It is not enough simply to prescribe more silence. In order for everyone to understand that the liturgy turns us interiorly toward the Lord, it would be helpful during the celebration for us all together, priests and faithful, to face the east, symbolized by the apse.

This practice remains absolutely legitimate. It is in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the Council. There is no lack of testimonies from the first centuries of the Church. “When we stand up to pray, we face the east,” says Saint Augustine, echoing a tradition that dates back, according to Saint Basil, to the Apostles themselves. Churches having been designed for the prayer of the first Christian communities, the apostolic constitutions of the 4th century recommended that they be turned to the east. And when the altar is facing  west, as at Saint Peter’s in Rome, the celebrant must turn toward the orient and face the people. 

This bodily orientation of prayer is nothing other than the sign of an interior orientation. [. . .] Does the priest not invite the people of God to follow him at the beginning of the great Eucharistic prayer when he says” “Let us lift up our heart,” to which the people respond: “We turn it toward the Lord”?

As prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, I am intent upon recalling once again that celebration “versus orientem” is authorized by the rubrics of the Missal because it is of apostolic tradition. There is no need for particular authorization to celebrate in this way, people and priest, facing the Lord. If it is physically not possible to celebrate “ad orientem,” a cross must necessarily be placed on the altar, in plain sight, as a point of reference for all. Christ on the cross is the Christian East.


I refuse to waste time in opposing one liturgy to another, or the rite of Saint Pius V to that of Blessed Paul VI. What is needed is to enter into the great silence of the liturgy; one must allow oneself to be enriched by all the Latin or Eastern liturgical forms that favor silence. Without this contemplative silence, the liturgy will remain an occasion of hateful divisions and ideological confrontations instead of being the place of our unity and our communion in the Lord. It is high time to enter into this liturgical silence, facing the Lord, that the Council wanted to restore.

What I am about to say now does not enter into contradiction with my submission and obedience to the supreme authority of the Church. I desire profoundly and humbly to serve God, the Church, and the Holy Father, with devotion, sincerity, and filial attachment. But this is my hope: if God wills, when he may will and how he may will, in the liturgy, the reform of the reform will take place. In spite of the gnashing of teeth, it will take place, because the future of the Church is at stake.

Damaging the liturgy means damaging our relationship with God and the concrete expression of our Christian faith. The Word of God and the doctrinal teaching of the Church are still listened to, but the souls that want to turn to God, to offer him the true sacrifice of praise and worship him, are no longer captivated by liturgies that are too horizontal, anthropocentric, and festive, often resembling noisy and vulgar cultural events. The media have completely invaded and turned into a spectacle the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the memorial of the death of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of our souls. The sense of mystery disappears through changes, through permanent adaptations, decided in autonomous and individual fashion in order to seduce our modern profaning mentalities, marked by sin, secularism, relativism, and the rejection of God.

In many western countries, we see the poor leaving the Catholic Church because it is under siege by ill-intentioned persons who style themselves intellectuals and despise the lowly and the poor. This is what the Holy Father must denounce loud and clear. Because a Church without the poor is no longer the Church, but a mere “club.” Today, in the West, how many temples are empty, closed, destroyed, or turned into profane structures in disdain of their sacredness and their original purpose. So I know how many priests and faithful there are who live their faith with extraordinary zeal and fight every day to preserve and enrich the dwellings of God.


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