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Online Edition: February 2010, Vol. XV, No. 10

Cardinal Canizares on Recent Developments in the Liturgy

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was interviewed in January by Italian journal Il Foglio on recent developments in the liturgy.

In the interview, Cardinal Cañizares reiterated Pope Benedict’s view of the fundamental importance of the Church’s liturgy. “Only a Church which lives the truth of the liturgy will be in a position … to transform and recreate the world”, he said.

When asked about the significance of Pope Benedict’s 2007 document Summorum Pontificum, concerning the use of the pre-Conciliar Missal (“extraordinary form”), the cardinal said that “though it displeases some, judging by the reactions received”, it is a mistake to see this as a return to the past. The Church cannot “renounce the treasures and the rich inheritance of this tradition contained in the Roman rite”, he said. To see this as a departure from the Second Vatican Council would be a mistake. “When one reads the Council with the hermeneutic [interpretation] of rupture and discontinuity, he understands nothing of the Council and completely distorts it”, Cardinal Cañizares said. Use of the “extraordinary form”, should not be “labeled as ‘pre-conciliar’, or, even worse, as ‘anti-conciliar’”, he pointed out. But the current tensions are not surprising, the cardinal observed, because throughout history when anyone alters the liturgy this has created tensions.

Liturgy Priorities and Plans

Cardinal Cañizares was asked about the Congregation’s formal list of propositions on liturgy matters that was sent to the pope following its plenary session in March 2009: “The plenary session was mainly focused on Eucharistic adoration, the Eucharist as worship, adoration outside Masses”, he said. The propositions were ratified by Pope Benedict, and provide a working plan for the Congregation for the coming years. The cardinal explained:

The conclusions concern themselves with revitalizing and promoting a new liturgical movement which, faithful to all the teachings of the Council and the teachings of Benedict XVI, place the liturgy in the central place which corresponds to it in the life of the Church.… [P]romotion of the adoration of the Lord, based on the worship one must give to God in the Christian liturgy is inseparable from the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrament; and is absolutely necessary for a living Church.

The cardinal stressed that putting a stop to liturgical abuses, a matter that had been addressed by the Congregation’s 2003 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, remains a priority. “It is a most urgent duty to correct the existing abuses”, the cardinal said, if we hope to “revivify the truth of the liturgy, its most authentic sense and its most genuine spirit.… [L]iturgical creativity as it is often understood … is the cause of its secularization, because it contradicts the nature of the liturgy itself”, he said.

What is important is that the liturgy is celebrated in its truth, with truth, and that it favors and promotes intensively the sense and spirit of the liturgy in all the people of God, so that you live it. It is really very important that the celebrations have and can foster a sense of the sacred, of the mystery that revives faith in the Real Presence of the Lord and the gift of God acting in it — things like adoration, respect, reverence, contemplation, prayer, praise, the action of grace, and many other things that run the risk of being watered down.

Pope Benedict’s Example

Cardinal Cañizares believes that Pope Benedict’s celebration of Mass is very helpful in providing an example of how Mass should express a profound sense of sacredness and reverence: “When I participate in or see the liturgy of the pope, who has already incorporated some of these elements, I am increasingly convinced that these are not random aspects, but they have an expressive and educative power in themselves, and in the truth of the celebration”. If these things are absent from any celebration of Mass, people notice it, the cardinal observed.

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