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Interview: Cardinal Arinze on the Church, its sacraments and the Latin Mass

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Colorado Catholic Herald) - Cardinal Francis Arinze was in the Diocese of Colorado Springs for a few days last month to celebrate Mass at St. Maryís Cathedral, to speak to Catholics at Holy Apostles Parish the same day, and to speak at the International Fall Summit for Legatus International on Sept. 21.

VATICAN VISITOR - Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, speaks to Catholics at Holy Apostles Church in Colorado Springs last month. (Colorado Catholic Herald/Jim Myers)

VATICAN VISITOR - Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, speaks to Catholics at Holy Apostles Church in Colorado Springs last month. (Colorado Catholic Herald/Jim Myers)

The prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stopped by The Colorado Catholic Herald office during his visit and sat with the newspaper to discuss the Latin Mass, keeping the sacraments holy and recommended reading for Catholics.

CCH: What does the motu propio on the Latin Mass mean to Catholics?

CARDINAL ARINZE: It is important that we get the title of what the Holy Father spoke about in the document on the seventh of July. It isnít about whether the Mass is in Latin or not. It is about whether you use the Missal used in the church just before Vatican II or whether we use the Missal issued by Pope Paul VI in 1970. What the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is saying is this: After the Second Vatican Council, the way the Mass is celebrated was retouched because the church is alive in every age.

There are some people in the church, however, who prefer the former way in which the Mass was celebrated because it nourished their spirituality more. This document is issued to say to them, "All right. You can have it." The pope calls it the extraordinary form. The way we have said Mass these 40 years is the ordinary form, presuming the priest is following what is in the books and is not adding or subtracting anything.

CCH: Do you see any liturgical changes coming in the future?

CARDINAL ARINZE: The Church is alive. The Church does not live in the Vatican Museum. As long the Church is alive, that Holy Mother Church can retouch how we celebrate baptism, confirmation, holy Eucharist and so on. The one that touches everybody immediately is the Mass because Mass is a daily event and is especially on Sunday a high point.

The missal itself has been enriched. The last edition was in 2002. This Missal has 1,300 pages with plenty of votive Masses. The eucharistic prayers are tied in. The prefaces are 89 pages. So, when all that is put into the various languages of the world, it will be an enrichment for the people of God. Then there will always be new prayers or new Masses ó we call them votive Masses ó that will be introduced.

CCH: What should be the primary focus for Catholics: evangelization, the culture of life vs. the culture of death, the sanctity of marriage?

CARDINAL ARINZE: All of these you have mentioned are serious concerns for the church worldwide. If you would allow me to put it in one word, it is evangelization; to carry out the mission Christ gave the church through his apostles. He said to them, "As my father sent me, I also send you." He also said to them, "All power is given to me on heaven and earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them. Teach them to observe whatever I have said to you." So, that's the mission of the church. It is always urgent.

One particular aspect may need more attention at a particular time. For if you ask me what would be most urgent, I would say the prayer life in the Church is very important. That has no substitute, so that remains a priority. But also, of course, the areas you mentioned remain very important.

You mentioned the culture of death. That is a type of mentality not peculiar to one country where people donít seem to respect life which God has given. To defend life, life in the womb ó the unborn child, the most innocent person on earth is an unborn child. Yet some people wage war on the unborn child. They kill that child, and they turn around and call it pro-choice. Then, a child already born, some people kill children. Infanticide is a terrible crime. Then, there are those who kill old people. They say that this person is rather old and is sick and is expensive to maintain. So they call a doctor and say, "Please, kill this person gently." Thatís not correct because life doesnít depend on us. It comes from God. Of course, there is terrorism ó those who bring violence and kill people who have done no harm at all. That is obviously the culture of death.

In all these areas, the Church has no option but to call people to respect God and respect life because life comes from God ó whether that life is a child conceived only two months ago or a sick old man who is 90 years old, or a handicapped person. It is life, so we have to respect it.

We therefore have to respect the context in which life occurs: marriage and the family. Life does not fall from the sky. It was God who made marriage, and he made the family so that the child coming into this world has a father and mother. The child needs a father and mother, absolutely, in order to grow in a very balanced way and to become all that child can become.

So marriage needs to be respected. The family needs to be defended. Unfortunately, there are many forces militating against the family. We can also regard them as part of the culture of death.

CCH: What steps do Catholics need to take to strengthen marriage and family in our society?

CARDINAL ARINZE: There are many steps. The first step is to find out what God wants for marriage and the family. It is not we who decided that one day there would be marriage and the family. It is God who made Adam and then made Eve and blessed them and said, "Increase and multiply." He blessed them as a couple. So, marriage comes from God. If we want it to go well we have to study the instructions. If you buy a computer and you want it to work well, you read the instructions.

CCH: Our diocese has broadened marriage preparation classes and has increased the time of marriage preparation to one year. What do you think of that more extensive marriage preparation?

CARDINAL ARINZE: I think it is excellent. Preparation is very necessary. To ordain a young man to the priesthood, we donít just pick him up and ordain him the following week. He has to be prepared; it is a very serious life commitment.

Marriage, too, is a very serious life commitment. Preparation for marriage is very necessary. Information from the point of view of church doctrine, from the point of view of even the doctor, from the point of view of fathers and mothers who run families telling the younger ones what makes a family.

There are many angles to that preparation. What many young people call love need not be love. It may be selfishness masquerading under the title of love. So, they need to be taught what real love means, how they can live together in harmony, accepting the other, self sacrifice, not insisting it is always the way you want it. Now you are going to be two living one life in a marriage situation. That is very important. They must learn to pray. They must learn to go to confession. They must learn to go to Mass and receive Christ together. The preparation for marriage is so crucial that many rushing into marriage without due preparation, the first obstacles they meet, the fall, they despair, they go to divorce as if that were the solution.

All of this is part of preparation and accompaniment from those who are already married because we donít learn it all at one time. We need ongoing formation, every one of us: bishops, priests, married persons, religious brothers and sisters.

CCH: You talked a lot about evangelization during your trip to Colorado Springs. How can Catholics go about evangelizing?

CARDINAL ARINZE: They will first be aware of how Christ sent the whole church. Then they will have to know what commitment baptism, holy Communion and confirmation give us: the three sacraments of Christian initiation, the three sacraments that insert us into Christ and the church, that incorporate us in full. Every one of us has a share. So, in that way they are well-informed.

Information is not enough. There is also necessity to make it yours ó to really accept it, to live it, to love it. Prayer becomes necessary. Going to the sacraments ó confession and holy Communion at Mass ó becomes necessary because Christ feeds us. None of us can do the whole thing by ourselves. We absolutely need Godís grace. Christ himself told us, "Without me, you can do nothing."

We learn how to evangelize by where we live. In the family, the parents evangelize their children. Also the children evangelize their parents in suitable ways. Where you work, you evangelize where you are. You are the witness of Christ there. You confess Christ there. Otherwise you are a runaway soldier. Our Christianity is not just on Sunday morning. There is also Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, every day; no holidays from religion.

So, we share our faith. That means everyone is called to spread the Gospel, in one way or another. What you can do, I cannot do. What I do, you cannot do. But if each of us does what is in front of us in our vocation and mission, the whole church will become like an orchestra where there are many players who produce beautiful music harmonized.

CCH: You mentioned the sacraments of initiation. How can Catholics keep the sacraments sacred?

CARDINAL ARINZE: Faith is necessary because without faith we cannot even begin. Knowledge is also necessary. It isnít everything, but it is one of the elements. There is the Catechism of the Catholic Church; this book has only 700 pages. If you read two pages a day you finish it in one year. You need to be well-informed. St. Peter said you must give to others good reason of the faith that is in you. We learn, and then we receive the sacraments to get faith. Knowledge is not enough. We also learn techniques of evangelization: how to do it. We need also some lectures, or help, or suggestions from other people. None of us knows the whole thing.

CCH: Do you have any recommended reading for Catholics?

CARDINAL ARINZE: Read the Gospels, that is the first. Fifteen minutes a day. It will nourish you. Also, you are a Catholic. Have a hand missal so that by next Sunday you read already everything the priest will say, and the readings. After Mass, you read them again. Gradually, you are being nourished. If you are the type who can go to Mass every day, better still.

I mentioned already the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Do not be afraid because it has 700 pages. You are not expected to read it in one sitting. You read that, and you are better informed. It helps all of us. I have used it for my own personal prayer.

Then there are many books that have been written by the popes. Your bishops may have published things. I do not ignore the theologians and Catholic writers, but choice of books is necessary because some people choose a book full of theories or opinions. Our faith is not based on theories or opinions. Our faith is based on a solid rock of Godís revelation: the holy Scripture, the tradition of the church, the teaching of the church which is alive in every age.

The church does not live in the museum. The church is alive today. Be with that church.

To hear an audio recording of Cardinal Arinze's lecture on "The Apostolate Specific to the Lay Faithful," given last month at Holy Apostles Parish in Colorado Springs, Colo., visit


Republished by Catholic Online with permission of The Colorado Catholic Herald, the official publication of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo. (



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