Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s liturgical chief, has spoken of a “serious, profound crisis” in the liturgy and the Church since the Second Vatican Council.
In a message to a liturgical conference in Herzogenrath, Germany, translated for Catholic World Report by Michael J Miller, Cardinal Sarah praised Vatican II’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. But he said the Council had been followed by a “serious crisis of faith, not only at the level of the Christian faithful but also and especially among many priests and bishops”.
The cardinal, who is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said the “crisis” was particularly visible in the way the Mass has been understood and celebrated. He argued that many Catholics had neglected “sacred silence”, and gestures such as kneeling which express reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. They had also forgotten that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, “identical to the act performed once and for all by Jesus Christ, making present the Sacrifice of the Cross in a non-bloody manner”.
He added that the Church had experienced “devastation, destruction and wars” not only in the liturgy, but also in doctrine, morals and Church discipline. “More and more voices of high-ranking prelates stubbornly affirm obvious doctrinal, moral and liturgical errors that have been condemned a hundred times, and work to demolish the little faith remaining in the people of God,” he said.
The conference was on the tenth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio which called for “mutual enrichment” between the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Mass, and gave greater freedom to celebrate the older form.
Cardinal Sarah had originally planned to attend the conference, but had “unexpected” obligations and sent a message instead.
He quoted several times from Benedict’s writings, including his remark – when Cardinal Ratzinger – that the Church’s crisis was “to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy”.
Cardinal Sarah suggested that the crisis had followed when God was displaced from the centre of the liturgy. Instead of directing worship towards the adoration of God, the Eucharist became dominated by merely human motives such as “the community’s celebration of itself”.