Barbara Middleton interviews Cardinal Arinze
by BARBARA MIDDLETON
VATICAN CITY -- Cardinal Francis Arinze has served as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship since October 2002. Under his direction, the congregation has released a number of important documents related to liturgical practice, including notably the March 2004 instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum.
The Nigerian cardinal spoke recently with Register correspondent Barbara Middleton in his Vatican office.
Some people seem to have a cavalier attitude towards holy Communion. What can be done to change that?
Faith is the foundation of our outward behavior. It is what we believe that directs how we celebrate. We believe that from the moment of consecration, the bread is no longer bread, it is now the body of Christ; the wine is no longer wine, but the blood of Christ. Christ is really present, the whole Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity, the same that was in Bethlehem, and in Nazareth and on the cross and after the resurrection, that Christ, complete.
As soon as we believe that, the rest becomes consequence: We adore, we genuflect, we do not converse between ourselves in his presence, because Jesus Christ, God and Man is present; we don't talk as we'd talk on a football field or in a theater. All that becomes consequence. Our faith in the holy Eucharist, that faith is something in which we can grow, not something we have once and for all. It can grow. We can grow in it and we should.
What more can be done, especially in the United States, to stop liturgical abuses?
I speak here officially from the Office of Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments for the whole world, Latin Rite. To be specific about the United States, you have your bishops and your priests. Your bishops are the liturgists. They are the fathers of the Christian community.
Each bishop in his diocese is the guardian of sacred worship. They are the chief priests, so listen to them. It is they, in collaboration with their priests, who have the chief duty to promote divine worship in your country. It is not for me to presume that I know the abuses going on in the United States. Your local bishop would know.
However, this congregation also receives letters from the United States, sometimes upset, like, 'My local priest said something funny,' 'My local parish priest is saying things not in any approved text,' or 'The way my parish priest celebrated Mass did not help me believe that he believes that Christ is present. I come to Mass ready to meet Christ and receive holy Communion, but the priest does not nourish my faith.'
By the canon rights, the priest should nourish my faith, strengthen my faith and send me home energized to share the Gospel. That's what it should be.
We must not depart from the major principle that the liturgy, the way we celebrate Mass, is not something we invent. The Mass is something that we have received as a gift from Christ to his Church, both the sacrament and the sacrifice. Then the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, develops how we are to celebrate this great mystery.
We must not depart from the major principle that the liturgy, the way we celebrate Mass, is not something we invent. The mass is something that we have received as a gift from Christ to his Church, both the sacrament and the sacrifice. Then the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, develops how we are to celebrate this great mystery.
Once we have faith, we know it is the celebration of Holy Mother Church, it is not a private affair, and that "do-it-yourself" attitude will no longer be acceptable. It is not lack of respect for anyone to say that you have to celebrate Mass according to approved texts. Actually it is common sense, but unfortunately with some people common sense is not very common.
What can be done to help cradle Catholics better understand and appreciate the sacraments and the beauty of the Catholic faith?
To begin with, information. We must not presume that people know their whole faith. In religious matters, many people don't know much and unfortunately, they don't know that they don't know. So, it is to them that our faith can be put into words, articulated.
Our faith is not in propositions. Our faith is in God, manifested in Christ. That's where our faith terminates” one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, that faith can be communicated. So in the Creed we articulate it; the various articles; one God, Creator; God the Son, Savior; Holy Spirit, Sanctifier; and one Catholic Church. Buy the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is a compendium of our faith produced in our time with the latest documental support” Vatican II, the popes, the saints and especially holy Scripture. It was prepared by the best minds of the Church and approved by Pope John Paul II. Those Catholics who do not have the Catechism of the Catholic Church for their families should sell their overcoat and buy one within a week. They absolutely need this book.
And apart from learning our faith, prayer. We live it and we pray it. The more you pray it, the better you enjoy it. The more you live it, the more it becomes part of you.
You made several statements on EWTN during the 2004 presidential election that Catholic politicians who support abortion should be denied Communion. Do you feel your concerns over this issue were adequately raised and addressed during the Synod of Bishops last October?
Well, I just addressed that in a document on the holy Eucharist. If somebody asks me whether this is okay when somebody says, "I am for the killing of unborn children--100 or 1,000” and I have always worked toward keeping the right to kill unborn children, then you ask me if it is fitting for this person to receive holy Communion.
Well, my response is, you do not need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that question. You can ask little children from first Communion class, because the answer is rather easy.
Barbara Middleton writes from Shelby Township, Michigan
Interview with Cardinal Arinze