Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Mass Isn't Entertainment, Says Cardinal Arinze

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2005 ( The Mass is a moment of reflection and encounter with God, rather than a form of entertainment, says Cardinal Francis Arinze.

In an interview with Inside the Vatican magazine, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments made a comprehensive assessment of the recent Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist and of developments in liturgical practice 40 years after the Second Vatican Council.

Regarding "music in the liturgy, we should start by saying that Gregorian music is the Church's precious heritage," he said. "It should stay. It should not be banished. If therefore in a particular diocese or country, no one hears Gregorian music anymore, then somebody has made a mistake somewhere."

However, "the Church is not saying that everything should be Gregorian music," the cardinal clarified. "There is room for music which respects that language, that culture, that people. There is room for that too, and the present books say that is a matter for the bishops' conference, because it generally goes beyond the boundaries of one diocese.

"The ideal thing is that the bishops would have a liturgical music commission which looks at the wording and the music of the hymns. And when the commission is satisfied, judgment is brought to the bishops for approval, in the name of the rest of the conference."

What should not be the case, insists the Nigerian cardinal, is "individuals just composing anything and singing it in church. This is not right at all -- no matter how talented the individual is. That brings us to the question of the instruments to be used.

"The local church should be conscious that church worship is not really the same as what we sing in a bar, or what we sing in a convention for youth. Therefore it should influence the type of instrument used, the type of music used."


"I will not now pronounce and say never guitar; that would be rather severe," Cardinal Arinze added. "But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, [but with] the visit of a special group, etc."

"The judgment would be left to the bishops of the area. It is wiser that way," he pointed out. "Also, because there are other instruments in many countries which are not used in Italy or in Ireland, for instance.

"People don't come to Mass in order to be entertained. They come to Mass to adore God, to thank him, to ask pardon for sins, and to ask for other things that they need."

"When they want entertainment, they know where to go -- parish hall, theater, presuming that their entertainment is acceptable from a moral theological point of view," added the cardinal, 73, who this year celebrated the 40th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.

The synod

In the course of the interview, Cardinal Arinze, who in the recent Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist was one of the delegate presidents, subsequently made a summary of this ecclesial event which gathered 252 bishops.

Speaking of the positive points of the synod, the cardinal said there were many: "Strengthening our faith in the holy Eucharist. No new doctrine, but freshness of _expression of our Eucharistic faith. Encouragement in the celebration in the sense of good attention; a celebration which shows faith."

"The synod thanked priests for their ministry and also deacons and others who assist at the celebration of Mass, and underlined the importance of Eucharistic adoration outside Mass which has its fruits in the Mass itself because the Mass is the supreme act of adoration," he continued.

"But the sacrament does not finish after Mass," the cardinal observed. "Christ is in the tabernacle to be brought to the sick, to receive our visits of adoration, praise, love, supplication. The synod fathers did not only talk about adoration -- they did adoration, every day. Christ exposed in the monstrance in the chapel near the Synod Hall, one hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon."

"The synod also stressed the importance of good preparation for the holy Eucharist; to receive Communion," he noted. "Therefore, confession of sins, for those who are in mortal sin and in any case encouraging the sacrament of penance as a way of growing in fidelity to Christ. And also that not everybody is fit to receive holy Communion, so those who are not fit should not receive."

Protestant view

Referring to a negative tendency in the Western world, the cardinal revealed that an increasing number of Catholics have "a more Protestant concept of the Eucharist, seeing it mainly as a symbol."

The "synod fathers recognize that many Catholics don't have correct faith in the real presence of Christ in the holy Eucharist," he said. "This was mentioned in one of the propositions as well.

"It was recognized so much that many of the synod fathers suggested that there be themes suggested for homilies on Sundays. Seeing that for many Catholics the Sunday homily is about the only religious instruction they get in a week, the synod fathers suggested that the four major areas of Catholic faith should be covered by the homily in a three-year cycle."

The four areas correspond to the parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

"First part, what we believe," Cardinal Arinze said. "Second part, how we worship, i.e., sacraments. Third part, what we live, life in Christ, so the moral law, the Ten Commandments, the Christian life lived; and the fourth part, prayer."

Therefore, "although the homily should be on the Scripture readings and the other liturgical texts, some way has to be found to cover the whole area of Catholic faith in a period of three years because many Catholics are really ignorant of fundamental matters. That is a fact nobody can deny."


"Vatican II brought many good things but everything has not been positive, and the synod recognized that there have been shadows," Cardinal Arinze acknowledged.

"There has been a bit of neglect of the holy Eucharist outside Mass," he said. "A lot of ignorance. A lot of temptations to showmanship for the priest who celebrates facing the people.

"If he is not very disciplined he will soon become a performer. He may not realize it, but he will be projecting himself rather than projecting Christ. Indeed it is very demanding, the altar facing the people. Then even those who read the First and Second Reading can engage in little tactics that make them draw attention to themselves and distract the people.

"So there are problems. However, some of the problems were not caused by Vatican II, but they were caused by children of the Church after Vatican II. Some of them talking of Vatican II push their own agenda. We have to watch that. People pushing their own agenda, justifying it as the 'spirit of Vatican II.'"

The Vatican prefect continued: "So, if only people would be more faithful to what has been laid down, not by people who just like to make laws for other people, but what follows from what we believe. 'Lex orandi, Lex credendi.' It is our faith that directs our prayer life, and if we genuflect in front of the tabernacle it is because we believe that Jesus is there, and is God."

Abuses not new

Contrary to what many think, he said, "even when there was the Tridentine Mass there were abuses. Many Catholics did not know, because they did not know Latin! So when the priest garbled the words, they were not aware of this.

"Therefore, the most important area is faith and fidelity to that faith, and a faithful reading of the original texts, and their faithful translations, so that people celebrate knowing that the liturgy is the public prayer of the Church."

Cardinal Arinze concluded that the liturgy "is not the property of one individual, therefore an individual does not tinker with it, but makes the effort to celebrate it as Holy Mother Church wants. When that happens, the people are happy, they feel nourished. Their faith grows, their faith is strengthened. They go home happy and willing to come back next Sunday."

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