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Cardinal Sarah: reaction to my ad orientem speech was ‘not always very accurate’

The cardinal said that his comments about the liturgy at a conference in London last month were misinterpreted

Cardinal Robert Sarah has said that comments he made during a conference in London earlier this year were not always interpreted accurately.

During his address to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on ‘Liturgical Life and the Priesthood’, the Vatican’s liturgy chief said: “Last month, in London, I gave a presentation ‘Towards an authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium’ … This talk received a lot of attention — some of it not always very accurate!"

During his address in July at the Sacra Liturgia conference, Cardinal Sarah asked priests to implement the practice of celebrating Mass facing east “wherever possible" prompting both the Vatican and the Archbishop of Westminster to issue statements, distancing themselves from Cardinal Sarah’s comments.

During his more recent address in Sri Lanka, the cardinal still reiterated the problems with celebrating Mass facing the people, saying that Mass had become to focused on the priest and the congregation, rather than God Himself.

He said: “In recent decades in some countries the Sacred Liturgy has become too anthropocentric; man not Almighty God has often become its focus. This archdiocese has had very fine archbishops, and I think that this problem is probably not a very large one here. However we must take care to form our people that God, not ourselves, is the focus of our worship."

The cardinal continued by emphasising that that the liturgy is not a celebration of our own achievements but God’s love and mercy. He said: “We do not come to the Church to celebrate what we have done or who we are. Rather, we come to celebrate and give thanks for all that Almighty God has done, and continues in His love and mercy to do, for us.

“What He does in the liturgy is what is essential; what we do is to present our ‘first fruits’—the best that we can—in worship and adoration. When the modern liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular with the priest ‘facing the people’ there is a danger of man, even of the priest himself and of his personality, becoming too central.

“In every Catholic liturgy, the Church, made up of both minister and faithful, gives her complete focus – body, heart and mind – to God who is the centre of our lives and the origin of every blessing and grace."


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