Cardinal: Liturgical Error Often Due to Ignorance

Says Mass Is Church’s Life and Breath

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 25, 2008 ( Erroneous applications of liturgical reforms implemented by Vatican II are generally not due to bad intentions, but simply to ignorance, says the Vatican official in charge of liturgy.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, affirmed this to L’Osservatore Romano on Saturday. The cardinal celebrated 50 years as a priest last Sunday.

The cardinal spoke with the Vatican daily about the responsibilities of his dicastery and its role in promoting and protecting the worship of God.

“The liturgy is the heart of the Church,” he said. “If the Church were not to celebrate the Eucharist, she would become an obsolete institution.” The congregation therefore is not an “ecclesiastical police force” but simply a “promoter of divine worship.”

“If the Church doesn’t pray, it doesn’t live. The liturgy is the respiration of the life of the Church. The Church was born to adore God, to honor and praise him. The Mass is the highest act that the Church can perform; there is nothing higher. This is essentially the center of the activity of this dicastery,” the prelate added.

Regarding confusion after the reforms to the liturgy implemented by the Second Vatican Council, the cardinal affirmed that the problem “is not the council itself, but those who have not received it correctly or those who in practice have even rejected it.”

Differing views

“There are people who have not digested what Vatican II said, others who pretend to dictate the authentic interpretation of the council spirit, and others who even request a new council,” he said.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Arinze affirmed, the situation today is much calmer than 30 years ago.

He contended that many abuses “are not due to bad intentions, but to ignorance. Some do no know, or are not aware that they do not know. They don’t know, for example, that words and gestures have roots in the tradition of the Church. Thus, they think themselves more original or more creative changing them.

“Faced with these things, it is necessary to reaffirm that the liturgy is sacred; it is the public prayer of the Church.”

The cardinal noted that his dicastery is currently studying possible changes to the liturgy, such as the placement of the sign of peace.

“Often, the significance of this gesture is not fully understood,” Cardinal Arinze noted. “It is thought that it is an occasion to give a high-five to friends. Rather, it is a way of saying to the person beside you that the peace of Christ, really present on the altar, is also with all men.”

The prelate said that the Church is considering moving the sign of peace to the moment of the offertory, “to create an atmosphere of more recollection while one is preparing for Communion.”

“The Pope has asked for a consultation of all the bishops,” the cardinal said. “Afterward, he will decide.”

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