It has been said that Rome thinks in centuries. In the present age, however, it seems that Rome reacts in days. So Cardinal Sarah learned following a July 5 address on the liturgy, as the Vatican issued a clarification meant to quash speculation about the possibility of new enactments from Rome that would affect liturgical norms and practices.
As many readers know by now, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments gave the opening address at the annual Sacra Liturgica conference, held this year in London. In part of his address, Cardinal Sarah urged bishops and priests to consider a return to the age-old practice of offering Mass ad orientem, where the priest and the people face together the “liturgical east.”
This suggestion caused an uproar in some quarters of the Church. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of the Archdiocese of Westminster, the see in which Sarah gave his address, quickly issued a letter to his priests discouraging the idea, claiming that the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (“the GIRM”) favors the now common practice of celebration versus populum.