In his first interview since Pope Francis accepted his resignation as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments last month, Cardinal Robert Sarah has revealed how ideological struggles over worship were a source of “great suffering” for him.
In comments to Matteo Matzuzzi of the Italian daily Il Foglio published on Wednesday (see below for an English translation provided exclusively to the Register), Cardinal Sarah says that in the Church today “too often we act as if everything is a question of politics, power, influence and the unjustified imposition of a hermeneutic of Vatican II that totally breaks and is irreversibly at odds with Tradition.”
The solution, he argues, is for the Church to return to placing God at the center of the liturgy, beginning by celebrating Mass ad orientem. “If God is not at the center of the Church’s life, then she is in danger of death,” he says, suggesting that the Church is “currently experiencing a Good Friday,” but adding that “Christ’s victory always comes through the Cross.”
Cardinal Sarah stresses that it’s unsound to view such matters as being ideological issues. “I don’t believe that the struggle between progressives and conservatives has any meaning in the Church,” he said, adding, “These categories are political and ideological. The Church is not a field of political struggle.”
He also discusses his positive relationships with Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, his time as prefect, his plans for the future, and how he sees the Church in the coming years.
Your Eminence, everyone was surprised by your departure from the Congregation for Divine Worship. What does this timing mean?
Like all cardinals, according to the rule in force, I had given the Holy Father my letter of resignation as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments last June on the occasion of my 75th birthday. At that time he asked me to continue my work in the service of the universal Church donec alter provideatur, in other words “until the Holy Father decrees otherwise.” A few weeks ago, however, the Pope informed me that he had decided to accept this request. I immediately replied that I was happy and grateful for his decision.
I have often said: Obedience to the Pope is not only a human necessity, it is the means of obeying Christ who put the Apostle Peter and his successors at the head of the Church.
I am happy and proud to have served three popes: St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, in the Roman Curia for more than 20 years. I have tried to be a loyal, obedient and humble servant of the truth of the Gospel. Even though some journalists continually repeat the same nonsense, I have never opposed the Pope.
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