Before his resignation, Sarah was the most senior African prelate at the Vatican, appointed head of the liturgy department by Pope Francis in November 2014.
Sarah said in his interview that when Pope Francis told him that he had decided to accept the resignation, “I immediately replied that I was happy and grateful for his decision.”
“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,” the cardinal continued.
“Some people insinuate without reason or even being able to provide concrete and credible proof that we were enemies, it’s not true! Pope Francis likes frankness. We have always worked together with simplicity, despite the fantasies of journalists,” he stated.
Sarah criticized the idea that his former role leading the Congregation for Divine Worship was “an honorary position, but of little importance.”
“I believe that the responsibility for the liturgy puts us at the heart of the Church, of her raison d'être. The Church is neither an administration nor a human institution. The Church mysteriously prolongs Christ’s presence on earth,” he said.
Sarah quoted the Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum concilium, which says the liturgy is “a sacred action surpassing all others” and “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”
“The Church exists to give men to God and to give God to men,” Sarah explained. “This is precisely the role of the liturgy: to worship God and to communicate divine grace to souls. When the liturgy is sick, the whole Church is in danger because her relationship with God is not only weakened but deeply damaged.”
He recalled Benedict XVI’s assertion that the crisis of the Church is “essentially a crisis of the liturgy because it is a crisis of the relationship with God.”
“If God is not at the center of the Church’s life, then she is in danger of death,” the cardinal said.
Sarah also emphasized that the liturgy is about God, not the community or the individual. This reality, he said, is expressed well when the liturgy is said ad orientem, meaning with the priest facing the altar rather than the people.
The cardinal also explained why he thinks silence is important in the liturgy.
(Story cotinues below)
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“When man remains silent, he leaves a place for God,” he said. “On the contrary, when the liturgy becomes chatty, it forgets that the cross is its center, it organizes itself around the microphone.
He said these questions are crucial, “because they determine the place we give to God,” and lamented that they had become “ideological.”
Factional struggles within the Church are a source of suffering for him, he said. “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.”
He declared it “false” that he is opposed to the Second Vatican Council because he speaks of a sense of the sacred in the liturgy.
“I don’t believe that the struggle between progressives and conservatives has any meaning in the Church. These categories are political and ideological,” he stated, adding that “the Church is not a field of political struggle.”
“The only thing that counts is to seek God ever more deeply, to meet him there and humbly kneel down to adore him.”