LONDON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Pope's chief liturgist, is calling for priests and laity to both face "liturgical East" during Mass. This orientation, known as "ad orientem," was the universal norm for the 19 centuries preceding Vatican II.
Speaking Tuesday at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London, Cdl. Sarah announced,
I want to make an appeal to all priests. ... I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction — eastwards or at least towards the apse — to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.
Sarah noted he had broached this topic before, namely, last June in an article published in L’Osservatore Romano, as well as in an interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May. But now the prefect is asking for this liturgical restoration to be enacted starting the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, of this year.
He appealed to his fellow bishops to foster this restoration among their priests and seminarians.
I would like to appeal also to my brother bishops: Please lead your priests and people towards the Lord in this way. ... Please form your seminarians in the reality that we are not called to the priesthood to be at the center of liturgical worship ourselves, but to lead Christ's faithful to him as fellow worshippers. Please facilitate this simple but profound reform in your dioceses, your cathedrals, your parishes and your seminaries.
The cardinal revealed that his initiative came from Pope Francis himself.
Pope Francis has asked me to continue the liturgical work Pope Benedict began. Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor's vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Benedict implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.
Cardinal Sarah relates that Pope Francis had asked him in a private audience last April "to study the question of a reform of a reform and of how to enrich the two forms of the Roman rite." The first so-called reform was the institution of changes that occurred in the wake of Vatican II. Sarah confirmed various changes were not foreseen by the Council, and there were "many distortions of the liturgy throughout the Church today."
One such abuse, the cardinal emphasized, was when priests "step aside to allow extraordinary ministers distribute Holy Communion." His Eminence affirmed, "This is wrong, it is a denial of the priestly ministry as well as a clericalisation of the laity. ... When this happens it is a sign that formation has gone very wrong, and that it needs to be corrected."
Another abuse the cardinal highlighted was the laity standing during the consecration and while receiving Holy Communion.
Kneeling at the consecration (unless I am sick) is essential. In the West this is an act of bodily adoration that humbles us before our Lord and God. It is itself an act of prayer. Where kneeling and genuflection have disappeared from the liturgy, they need to be restored, in particular for our reception of our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion.
Following Cdl. Sarah's address was a talk by French bishop Dominique Rey of of Fréjus-Toulon. Bishop Rey pledged to implement Sarah's directives by Advent.
It is with great joy that we have learnt today that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked you to commence a study of the reform of the liturgical reform that followed the Council and to investigate the possibilities of mutual enrichment between the older and newer forms of the Roman rite, first spoken of by Pope Benedict XVI.