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The why of the pope’s liturgical broom

VATICAN (SE): A recent interview with Pope Francis by Father Antonio Spadaro, the editor-in-chief of Civiltà Cattolica, sheds more light on his decision to remove the entire complement of 27 members from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.

The French publication, Crux, reported that in the interview, Pope Francis insists that the reform of the liturgy of the Mass that received impetus from the Second Vatican Council is here to stay.

But in what is a poignant comment in the context of the entire membership of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments being replaced, the pope says to speak of a “reform of the reform,” as articulated by the prefect of the congregation, Robert Cardinal Sarah, during a controversial talk given in London on July 5, is an error.

Pope Francis told Father Spadaro that in authorising the regular use of the older version of the Mass, now referred to as the extraordinary form, Pope Benedict XVI was simply being magnanimous toward those attached to the Latin liturgy. “But it is an exception,” he stresses.

Pope Francis adds that he wonders why some young people, who were not raised with the old Latin Mass, nevertheless have nostalgia for it.

“And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid,” Pope Francis concludes.

While it is routine for the pope to rotate a few members each year in Vatican congregations, on October 28 Pope Francis totally transformed the makeup of the office in charge of all liturgical affairs, as its general assembly now has 38 members, eight more than previously, and all but the executive are newly appointed.

Commentators said at the time that it would spell the end of the push that Cardinal Sarah was making for his reform of the reform, as even though he survives in his role as prefect of the congregation he has been effectively isolated.

In an article published by The Eponymous Flower on November 16, Guiseppe Nardi quotes Vatican journalist, Sandro Magister, as saying, “Cardinal Sarah is condemned to lead offices that work against him.”

The timing is also poignant, as in his talk in London earlier this year, Cardinal Sarah asked all priests to go back to celebrating Mass facing east (away from the people) and had suggested the first Sunday of Advent as a good time to start (November 27).

The article adds that Pope Francis’ reform of the congregation began in November 2014 when he replaced its previous prefect, Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, with Cardinal Sarah.

But the appointment of Archbishop Piero Marini, who is regarded as an opponent of any recovery of the traditional form of the Mass, is probably the most significant one to watch.

The interview with Pope Francis is published in In your Eyes are my Word, the first unabridged collection of his homilies as the archbishop of Buenos Aires. Written in Italian, it was launched at the Vatican on November 11.

For his part, Cardinal Sarah has continued his campaign through a book, The Power of Silence, published in French on October 6.

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