FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, JULY 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The centrality of the liturgy, with the Eucharistic sacrifice as its apex, is one of key reasons why John Paul II’s pontificate stands out, according to Cardinal Francis Arinze.
The prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments recently spoke on the Pope’s teachings on the sacred liturgy and the Eucharist to more than 300 attendees at Christendom College’s Summer Institute, which was entitled “Confronting the Culture of Death: John Paul II’s Prophetic Vision for the Renewal of Christian Culture.”
“Among the many outstanding dimensions of this remarkable pontificate, the Holy Father’s teaching on the sacred liturgy, and especially on the holy Eucharist, is altogether prominent,” Cardinal Arinze said.
He went on to outline key aspects of the Holy Father’s teachings and actions over the last 25 years, saying, “Pope John Paul II teaches us by his liturgical celebrations, as well as by pontifical documents on the public worship of the Church. In the liturgical renewal he insists on fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and to Church Tradition. He rightly gives the holy Eucharist very special attention.”
“Yet,” the cardinal said, “he does not forget to state the contribution which popular devotions can make. And he requests everyone concerned, especially the clergy, to be faithful to liturgical norms.”
The Vatican prefect observed that from the start of his pontificate, John Paul II “showed his keen awareness of the centrality of the sacred liturgy, and especially of the holy Eucharist.”
“He had himself been very active in the Second Vatican Council, which taught ‘the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows,'” Cardinal Arinze said, quoting from the conciliar declaration “Sacrosanctum Concilium.”
Later in his speech, Cardinal Arinze stressed that John Paul II recalls some of the positive developments in the liturgical life of the Church since Vatican II.
“The holy Scripture is now more abundantly read in the liturgy,” the cardinal said. “The active participation of the people of God is more consciously promoted and the common priesthood is better appreciated. The liturgy has contributed to more radiant vitality in many Christian communities.”
Cardinal Arinze said that the Pope sees in the liturgy “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.” He notes that John Paul II asserts in his encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” that “the Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is in an outstanding way the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the center of the Church’s life.”
The cardinal explained, “The fact that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist explains why the Pope applies this also to the evangelizing and missionary dimension of the activity of the Church and says [in “Ecclesia de Eucharistia”] that ‘every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning must draw the strength in needs from the Eucharistic mystery.'”