Robert Cardinal Sarah: Sacrosanctum concilium betrayed when not considering that “Nothing should be preferred to the work of God”

God or Nothing, Cardinal Robert Sarah with Nicolas Diat


Robert Cardinal Sarah
Robert Cardinal Sarah

NICHOLAS DIAT: At the end his pontificate, in 2012, Benedict XVI insisted on celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Why are there so many divisions over the last Council, even today?

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In order to help us see that everything at the heart of the conciliar documents was centered on and oriented toward God, Benedict XVI invited us to focus our attention on the way in which the are ordered. He says that the architecture of these documents has an essentially theocentric orientation. Let us begin with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium. The fact that it is the first document to be published indicates that there were dogmatic and pastoral reasons of the utmost importance. Before all else, in the Church, there is adoration; and therefore God. This beginning, says Benedict XVI, corresponds to the first and chief concern of the Rule of Saint Benedict: “Nihil operi Dei praeponatur” (Nothing should be preferred to the work of God). Now, if there is one reality too often left out of consideration, it is certainly the consubstantial relation between the liturgy and God. The foundation of the liturgy must remain the search for God. We can only be dismayed by the fact that this intention of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, and of the Council Fathers as well, is often obscured and , worse yet, betrayed…

Robert Cardinal Sarah attests to how botched preparation for the liturgical reform had devastating effects on the Catholic population

God or Nothing, Cardinal Robert Sarah with Nicolas Diat


Robert Cardinal Sarah
Robert Cardinal Sarah

In 1958, therefore, you were at the seminary when John XXIII was elected pope?

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On the other hand, I stilled lacked the maturity needed to understand the scope of the council desired by that pope. I knew, however, that Archbishop Tchidimbo represented my country and that he traveled regularly to Rome for discussions with the bishops from the other countries of the world. Although he did not really speak to us about the content of debates, I nevertheless relate an event that impressed the Catholic faithful of Conakry.

The cathedral in Conakry had an elegant, ornate choir, with a beautiful replica of the Bernini baldachin, surrounded by very beautiful angels. At the time of the first discussions about liturgical reform, archbishop Tchidimbo returned to Conakry and ordered the destruction of the baldachin and the main altar. We were angry, incredulous at this hasty decision. Rather violently, we passed without any preparation from one liturgy to another. I can attest to the fact that the botched preparation for the liturgical reform had devastating effects on the Catholic population, particularly on the simpler people, who scarcely understood the swiftness of these changes or even the reason for them.

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