How did the idea for this conference come about?
Mgr. Rey: Sacra Liturgia 2013 is inspired by the liturgical teaching and example of Pope Benedict XVI. Both as Cardinal and as Pope, he frequently emphasised the absolutely vital role of the liturgy in the life of the Church.
I wanted to bring together pastors and leading liturgists from around the world to promote the centrality of the liturgy in the life and mission of the Church in the Church of the twenty-first century, the Church called to the New Evangelisation.
It seemed only right to come to Rome for this conference—to be close to Peter. Because of this I was delighted when, shortly after I informed Pope Benedict about Sacra Liturgia 2013 during my ad limina visit last December, I received a message from the Secretariat of State conveying his “strong encouragement” for this initiative. Now that he has announced his retirement I hope that the conference will serve to promote and reflect on his liturgical teaching and vision. This is a precious gift he has given to the Church which will not become obsolete with the end of his pontificate.
Why is this conference so important to the Church today?
Mgr. Rey: Because the liturgy is the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. Pre-eminently in the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, of course, but in all the liturgical life of the Church—the other sacraments, the divine office, the blessings, etc. It is in the liturgy that we encounter Christ most fully, not as individuals, but together as members of the Church. It is there that Christ acts upon us most powerfully.
Sometimes our efforts at renewal and evangelisation have neglected the centrality of the liturgy. But as Cardinal Ratzinger once said, “the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever.” So the liturgy must be central to the New Evangelisation. It should sustain us in our mission to the world. All our missionary activity is about leading people to Christ, with whom we enter into relationship through Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. The other liturgical rites sustain us in that relationship—in the life of faith.
But the liturgy cannot fulfil its central role if our liturgical catechesis and formation and celebration are not what the Church intends them to be. We must look at these areas and see where we can do more, according to the mind of the Church.
The importance of Sacra Liturgia 2013 is to re-emphasis this reality and to help form people in it. This is not a conference about liturgical minutiae. Of course we must always take care to follow the liturgical directives, but in Rome we will be also addressing some larger and also some contemporary questions: catechesis and formation, the connections between liturgy and human psychology, the role of the internet in the promotion of the liturgy, the place of liturgical music in the new evangelisation, etc.
What do you hope this conference will achieve?
Mgr. Rey: I hope the conference will help further the liturgical renewal so dear to Pope Benedict’s heart and demonstrate liturgical foundation the of New Evangelisation in this Year of Faith commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Sacra Liturgia 2013 will also bring people together for teaching and formation that will help strengthen that renewal. It will also be a time to form new links between people from around the world, new friendships that will help the ‘new liturgical movement’ to spread. Already there are confirmed participants from over 20 countries who will be present, so it promises to be a truly international conference.
To what extent do you believe the conference will help to resolve some of the disputes about how liturgy should be celebrated?
Mgr. Rey: First, I want to say how sad and destructive such disputes are and how important it is that we overcome them.
The liturgy is something that the Church gives us, not something we create, and we must celebrate it with respect and as the Church directs us to celebrate it. There are legitimate options and styles, of course, and Conferences of Bishops may make certain adaptations. But the liturgy remains something precious given to us by the Church which we must treasure and respect—even a bishop is limited in changes he can make! If we all have this respect we are already beginning to overcome many disputes.
There have been sharp divisions between those who want to celebrate the older liturgy or the new one. This is not necessary. At Sacra Liturgia 2013 we will celebrate both: Cardinals Canizares and Brandmüller will be the celebrants. As Pope Benedict has made very clear, both have a legitimate place in the life of the Church.
And both have a role in the New Evangelisation ! In my diocese one community that celebrates the older liturgy has the mission of the evangelisation in neighbourhoods where many Muslims live. Some of my clergy celebrate according to both forms of the rite and some young people and seminarians find it brings them closer to Christ. Its riches have positive impact on people today.
There does not need to be opposition or division about the liturgy. The modern rites should be celebrated as the Church intends them to be celebrated, with the ars celebrandi spoken of and demonstrated by Pope Benedict, and the older rites should be freely available to those who want them—they should be celebrated well also. We encounter the same Christ in both forms!
What is essential is that we do encounter Christ in the Sacred Liturgy so that we are strengthened for our Christian life and mission in the world, that we are empowered for the New Evangelisation. Sacra Liturgia 2013 is about that.