Cdl. Sarah: Power of Silence

News: World News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  October 5, 2016   

"It is the path that enables human beings to go to God"

You are not signed in as a Premium user; we rely on Premium users to support our news reporting. Sign in or Sign up today!

ROME ( - Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican's chief liturgist, is seeking to restore a sense of the sacred in public worship by first restoring a sense of silence in the hearts of the faithful.

In a recent interview with the French paper La Nef, Cdl. Sarah, focused on silence as the key to understanding lay participation at Mass and how it's been replaced by banal noise. "Under the pretext of making access to God easy," he commented, "some wanted everything in the liturgy to be immediately intelligible, rational, horizontal and human. But in acting that way, we run the risk of reducing the sacred mystery to good feelings."

The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship asked pastors if they were "afraid that silence … might disconcert the faithful" or if they thought "the Holy Spirit is incapable of opening hearts."

Responding to a question regarding his desire to restore "ad orientem" worship, the cardinal discussed how this traditional "outward orientation" promotes in clerics and laity a correct attitude of sacred silence.

  • Facing the Lord, the priest is less tempted to become a professor giving a lecture

  • The altar is not reduced to a podium centered on the microphone

  • The priest is reminded he's an instrument of God making room for the Eternal Word

Cardinal Sarah noted that priests facing liturgically East are not only quieter but even sound different. "I am convinced that priests do not use the same tone of voice when they celebrate facing East," he remarked. "We are so much less tempted to take ourselves for actors, as Pope Francis says!"

Asked about his past comments on the misinterpretation of Vatican II, Cdl. Sarah referenced Pope Benedict. "Bewitched by what Benedict XVI calls the media Council, we give it an all-too-human reading, looking for ruptures and oppositions where a Catholic heart must strive to find renewal in continuity," he explained.

The cardinal was referring to a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI two weeks before resigning in 2013.

[T]here was the Council of the Fathers — the real Council — but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council apart, and the world perceived the Council through the latter, through the media. Thus, the Council that reached the people with immediate effect was that of the media, not that of the Fathers. ... [It] created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy … and the real Council had difficulty establishing itself and taking shape.

To a question concerning what contribution Vatican II could make today, Cdl. Sarah responded, "Just one example: Vatican II admirably described the baptismal priesthood of the laity as the ability to offer ourselves in sacrifice to the Father with Christ so as to become, in Jesus, 'holy, pure, spotless Victims,'" he said. "We have here the theological foundation for genuine participation in the liturgy."

Cardinal Sarah conducted this interview with the French paper on the advent of the French edition of his new book "La Force du Silence" ("The Strength of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise").


Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.

We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines