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7/7/2016 9:50:00 AM
Facing east
Experts: Cardinal Sarah's Mass comments encourage what canon law permits
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is pictured at the Vatican in this Oct. 9, 2012, file photo. Cardinal Sarah, the Vatican's liturgy chief, has asked priests to begin celebrating the Eucharist facing east, the same direction the congregation faces. Although not commonplace, the practice is already permitted by church law. Cardinal Sarah made his request during a speech at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London July 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is pictured at the Vatican in this Oct. 9, 2012, file photo. Cardinal Sarah, the Vatican's liturgy chief, has asked priests to begin celebrating the Eucharist facing east, the same direction the congregation faces. Although not commonplace, the practice is already permitted by church law. Cardinal Sarah made his request during a speech at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London July 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Archbishop Sample referenced
In a talk to a liturgy conference in Rome this week, Cardinal Robert Sarah referenced Archbishop Alexander Sample, who had spoken at the 2013 conference. Here is a section of Cardinal Sarah's talk:
 
"We bishops have a great responsibility, and one day we shall have to answer to the Lord for our stewardship. We are the owners of nothing! As St Paul teaches, we are merely “the servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). We are responsible to ensure that the sacred realities of the liturgy are respected in our dioceses and that our priests and deacons not only observe the liturgical laws, but know the spirit and power of the liturgy from which they emerge. I was very encouraged to read the presentation on “The Bishop: Governor, Promoter and Guardian of the Liturgical Life of the Diocese” made to the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome by Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon in the USA, and I fraternally encourage my brother bishops to study his considerations carefully."

Catholic News Service


WASHINGTON — Recent comments by a high-ranking Vatican official have sparked questions about the direction priests should face while celebrating Mass.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, urged priests and bishops at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London July 5 to start celebrating Masses "ad orientem," or facing away from the congregation, beginning the first Sunday of Advent this year.

"Dear fathers, I ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor's confidence that this is something good for the church, something good for our people," Cardinal Sarah said.

"Dear fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: 'they have turned their back to me.' Let us turn again toward the Lord!"

Several liturgical experts said Cardinal Sarah does not have the authority to impose a change but is simply encouraging a practice that liturgical law already permits.

"I think he's just encouraging as anyone can encourage, but because of his position, his encouragement carries more weight. He's not changing the legislation at all; he's just giving his opinion that he thinks this would help people to pray better," Father Andrew Menke, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' divine worship office, told Catholic News Service July 6.

Father Menke also said Cardinal Sarah's suggestion would not overturn the Second Vatican Council's decisions but would ease some of the liturgical changes that followed the council.

"Some people have the opinion, Cardinal Sarah apparently being one of them, that (those) who carried out what 'Sacrosanctum Concilium' (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) said to do went too far and did things that the bishops of the council never envisioned, and so it seems he's starting to talk about proposing some changes that would pull back a little bit from some of the changes that they made," Father Menke explained.

"I think the part that he's being patient and careful with is making a change."

Father Menke said that as new editions of the Roman Missal are released, liturgical law is bound to shift, but he doubts anything would happen regarding the direction the priest faces, except perhaps more encouragement of "ad orientem" Masses in future missal editions.

Other experts agreed, saying neither bishops nor Cardinal Sarah have the right to force priests to celebrate Mass "facing East" until there is an official change to the missal, the official liturgical law.

Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University, said Cardinal Sarah's office could issue a directive mandating "ad orientem" Masses without changing the whole missal.

A directive, he said, would require approval from the Vatican and would be released in an official statement from the Congregation for Divine Worship.

"This is not official; he was speaking to an annual meeting of an erratic conservative group. ... Those directives don't happen in speeches and interviews" like those Cardinal Sarah has given, Father Morrill said.

Mercy Sister Sharon Euart, former executive coordinator of the Canon Law Society of America, said that the issue is complicated because liturgical rules can vary by diocese, with the bishop being able to make some provisions for different priests.





Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2016
Article comment by: Cyndy Spence

In regard to my previous comment post let me be clear by also stating my opinion is just that, an opinion. I will always follow the the teaching of the Church and acknowledging change can be difficult but Faith and Trust must always form our will in accordance with Church Teaching. We should be thankful for being given the chance to even discuss how we feel.

Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2016
Article comment by: darrell wright

Amen to that! Pope Benedict XVI also wrote of the importance of the 'ad orientem' celebration of Mass and the non-traditional aberration of having the priest facing the congregation, a practice promoted by the Protestant "reformers" as well as Jews, Freemasons, and other enemies of the Church. When Sr Lucia of Fatima in her letters and interviews spoke often of a "diabolical disorientation" afflicting both the Church and the modern world, I'm confident she was also referring to this liturgical disorientation as well.

Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2016
Article comment by: Cyndy Spence

Since the subject is “complicated” and “controversial” “and would require approval from the Vatican and would be released in an official statement from the Congregation for Divine Worship.” I would rather the Church focus first on the reality of Catholics who don't know what Transubstantion means and that it is THE essential basis of our faith before we go back to having the Priest turn his back on his sheep. Jesus enters into us and that the Priest can see my face as he consecrates the host is a Holy and Jesus action as far as I can tell. For me the action of the Priest is not for him alone but a Divine Privilege from Christ Himself and I want to be included as part of a Priestly People and not see the back of my Pastors Head !!

Posted: Friday, July 8, 2016
Article comment by: Boris Bruton

Thank you, Bishop Sample, for your fidelity to the Faith. You are one of the best.

Posted: Friday, July 8, 2016
Article comment by: Marie Barzen

Here's my opinion on the priest at Mass, facing the Altar Table, or Ad Orientem. I've experienced this recently at the church I grew up in back in the Chicago area. The mass was said in English. I could see how the feeling of having the priest stand in front of the Altar table, facing the Tabernacle felt like being with a General, leading us in spiritual battle. The wisdom of the Catholic Church is that she knows that all the postures our bodies do at Mass are to remind us of both the physical and spiritual realities before us. Do I forget this at times even though I at times do gestures rotely? Yes, but these gestures are an aid to me in that it helps me to get back in focus. I believe that by having all members of Mass both the priest and parishioners standing in union, facing the table of "Sacrifice" & the Tabernacle will send a powerful message and promote a deeper understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.



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