.- Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, revealed in a letter sent to a liturgical conference this week that when he was appointed to his post, Pope Francis indicated a desire to continue the liturgical work done by his predecessor as Bishop of Rome.
“When the Holy Father, Pope Francis, asked me to accept the ministry of Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, I asked: ‘Your Holiness, how do you want me to exercise this ministry? What do you want me to do as Prefect of this Congregation?’ The Holy Father's reply was clear. ‘I want you to continue to implement the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council,’ he said, ‘and I want you to continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI,'” Cardinal Sarah wrote in a letter to the Sacra Liturgia Conference, which was made public June 2.
“My friends,” the cardinal wrote, “I want you to help me in this task.”
The Sacra Liturgia Conference is held annually, and addresses the importance of liturgical formation within the Church. It is a proponent of the new evangelization, and supports liturgical catechesis of the faithful.
Cardinal Sarah, who was appointed head of the CDW in November 2014, asked that Sacra Liturgia “continue to work towards achieving the liturgical aims of the Second Vatican Council and to work to continue the liturgical renewal promoted by Pope Benedict XVI.”
He cited in particular the emeritus Pope's apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, on the Eucharist, and his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which made it easier for all priests to celebrate the liturgy as it had been done prior to the reform which followed Vatican II.
“In ask you to be wise, like the householder in St Matthew's Gospel, who knows when to bring out of his treasure thing both new and old, so that the Sacred Liturgy as it is celebrated and lived today may lose nothing of the estimable riches of the Church's liturgical tradition, whilst always being open to legitimate development.”
The cardinal had noted earlier in his letter that “we must do everything we can to put the Sacred Liturgy back at the very heart of the relationship between God and man,” calling the liturgy the “privileged and unique form in which we … encounter God at work in our world.”
Cardinal Sarah stated that the Sacra Liturgia conference, which runs June 1-4, has ample time to consider how to both maintain tradition and be open to legitimate developments, and then suggested “two critical areas in which authentic liturgical renewal in the twenty-first century can be furthered”: by making clear that liturgy is the worship of God, and by promoting “sound liturgical formation.”
He urged that we “never underestimate” the importance of liturgy as worship of God, adding that “the liturgy is not some social occasion or meeting … where what is important is that we express our identity. No: God comes first.”
Recalling that the liturgy “is given to us in tradition,” he added that “it is not for us to make up the rites we celebrate or to change them to suit ourselves … beyond the legitimate options permitted.”
“That is why we must celebrate the Sacred Liturgy faithfully, with that reverence and awe of which I spoke earlier.”
Turning to the importance of sound liturgical formation, Cardinal Sarah referred to the text of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II's constitution on the liturgy, and said that “we cannot truly participate in the Sacred Liturgy, we cannot drink deeply from the source of Christian life, if we have not been formed in the spirit and power of the liturgy … I hope and I pray that the different initiatives of Sacra Liturgia can do much to meet this urgent and crucial need.”
In addition to making four references to the text of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Cardinal Sarah's letter also referred twice to non-papal writings of Benedict XVI, quoting from his Collected Works: The Theology of the Liturgy and The Spirit of the Liturgy.
The Sacra Liturgia conference was launched in Rome in 2013, and has a different location each year – the 2016 conference will be held in London. The conference includes presentations of academic papers as well as the celebration of both Mass and Vespers, in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman rite.
The 2015 conference includes an opening address by Cardinal Raymond Burke, and presentations on the importance of beauty in the liturgy. Other speakers include Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Dr. Lauren Pristas, Dr. Jennifer Donelson, Fr. Alcuin Reid, and Fr. Phillip Anderson, OSB.