July 13, 2016
An interview with Sacra Liturgia’s international coordinator, Dom Alcuin Reid, about the recent London conference and the reactions to Robert Cardinal Sarah’s Address.
Sacra Liturgia (sacraliturgia.org) held its third international conference in London, England, from July 5-8. Its keynote speaker was Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. His Address, “Towards an Authentic Implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium”, has given rise to widespread comment and debate.
CWR corresponded with Sacra Liturgia’s international coordinator, Dom Alcuin Reid, about the London conference and the reactions to Cardinal Sarah’s Address.
CWR: Dom Alcuin, how did this third international Sacra Liturgia conference go?
Dom Alcuin Reid: Very well, thank you. Thanks to the efforts of the UK organizers and the support of benefactors we were able to bring together an excellent group of speakers who were highly appreciated by the more than 200 participants who came from nearly twenty different countries. And, as is our custom, we were able to celebrate beautiful liturgies in the modern and older uses of the Roman rite as well at the London Oratory and, this time, also in the use of the Ordinariates for Anglicans who have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. In addition we enjoyed a sublime concert of sacred music thanks to Charles Cole and the Oratory School Schola. They were four days of profound intellectual stimulation and of prayer.
Of course Cardinal Sarah’s keynote address was the highlight. His personal appeal to priests to adopt the practice of celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist ad orientem (facing East) from the first Sunday of Advent was a profoundly moving moment—perhaps indeed an historic one—at the beginning of the conference.
CWR: Why did Cardinal Sarah choose to focus on the issue of orientation?
Dom Alcuin Reid: The Cardinal has emphasized the importance of facing East before – in the Vatican newspaper (June 12, 2005) and in the French journal Famille Chrétienne this past May. So it could be expected that he would speak on this again. Perhaps, though, his appeal to priests to adopt this beautiful practice “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” from the first Sunday of Advent this year added an immediacy that his previous mentions of this did not have. I imagine that he wanted not just to talk about this, but to encourage priests to begin the necessary work of formation so as to implement it.
But the Cardinal’s address touched on many, many other important topics also. One was his revelation that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, had asked him to begin to study possibilities for mutual enrichment between the older and newer rites – what some people call the question of “the reform of the reform.” It was certainly heartening to learn that the Holy Father is open to considering this, and indeed that Cardinal Sarah will be commencing this work.
There are many, many other important things contained in the Cardinal’s Address. We should not forget that, as its title indicates, he was exploring ways in which we can be more faithful to the Second Vatican Council’s desires for the Sacred Liturgy. People should carefully read the full and official text (which was published on Monday in English and French at his direction. It is a mine of profound insights and practical reflections on how to implement the Council more faithfully today.
CWR: What was the response like to the Address at the conference?
Dom Alcuin Reid: After making his appeal His Eminence received sustained applause from those present for some minutes, and again he was applauded for some time at the end of his address. All present were profoundly moved by the Cardinal’s humility: it was clear that he is attempting to lead people to a more faithful understanding and practice of worship according to the mind of the Church as expressed in the magisterium of modern popes and in the Second Vatican Council in continuity with the Church’s liturgical tradition. We sat at the feet of a true “scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven,” “a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13:52)
CWR: Have you been surprised by the response outside the conference and by the Vatican’s “clarification”?
Dom Alcuin Reid: It has to be said that some responses on internet sites and even in prominent journals have been astonishing. To accuse Cardinal Sarah of lying in respect of what Pope Francis has said to him about continuing the work of the Pope Emeritus or about studying a possible reform of the reform, or to say that the Holy Father ‘slapped down’ the . . .