Daily Archives: January 19, 2010

The Big “If” – and other matters


You gotta love Cardinal Arinze. Secretly (no secret now, because I am telling you), I had hoped that he would be elected pope in the last conclave. Not that I am at all disappointed with the bloke they did choose, mind you!

I love the way Arinze is a straight talker. No beating around the bush for him (not just ecclesiastics, but politicians – eg. our Kevin – could learn a thing or two from him on this). This quality is amply demonstrated in this interview on Catholic World Report by Matthew Rarey, in which he principally discusses the new Mass translations (he was prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship from 2000-2008), but also goes on to say something about Evangelisation and Inter-religious Dialogue (before the CDW post, he was president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue).

On the new missal translations:

CWR: How do you hope the new translation will help priests and the faithful better understand the meaning of the Roman rite and participate more fully in the liturgy?
Cardinal Arinze: If priests, religious, and lay faithful give this translation an open-hearted welcome; if they will read it carefully; if the person leading the celebration would do it in the best spirit of what the synod of bishops in 2005 called ars celebrandi, the “art of celebrating” (that means that way of celebrating which manifests our Catholic faith—shows it, encourages it in the people, wakens those whose faith is getting a bit cold, sends the people home on fire to live this faith and to share it, joyful in the faith); if this all happened, that would be good!

Indeed it would – but it has to be said that those are BIG “ifs”. As the Cardinal goes on to say, the Catholic Church is a big place, and who is to say how the new translations will be received universally. I had to laugh when he said that “the Church has no army. We do not send the Swiss Guard from Rome to police every priest.” Reminds me of Monty Python’s “Church Police” skit…

But this gets to the core of the matter:

But of course the Church achieves more by appeal to the human heart, to our spirit of faith: love for Christ, love for the Church, which means, also, obedience to the Church. And it is the Church that tells us how to pray when it is the public prayer of the Church, that is, the liturgy. If it were my private prayer, then nobody is going to tell me how to pray.… But when it is the public prayer of the Church, then the Church is going to tell me what to do…because this is in the name of the Church.

It is love for the Church – which is ultimately love for Christ – that will make all the difference.

On the matter of evangelisation, he is equally candid:

When you say evangelization, what we mean is the message of the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ: that Christ is the Savior for all. The Church has no other business.… Now evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to every human being. If that human being embraces faith in Christ, we do catechesis. We baptize. We set up a Christian community.

If that human being does not believe in Christ, at least we can approach the person: listen to that person, try to understand. And we can try to help that other person understand us. If you are doing that, you are doing what is called interreligious dialogue.… This is part of evangelization, but not the whole. If at some stage that human being gets more interested and wants to listen to Christ and the Gospel, then openly we discuss that. But we never use force. We never use tactics. We never impose, but we propose. Because Christ sent us to bring the Gospel to everyone. And the Good News of Jesus Christ is not a contraband good which we smuggle across customs. In religious matters, we deal straight. We have no hidden agenda in our pocket.

If, of course, a Muslim wants to become a Christian, we are very happy. Why not? And if everybody in the world wants to become a Christian, excellent! Then the Holy Father will close that office for interreligious dialogue in the Vatican. But we have not come to that day yet. So, if others don’t believe in Christ, we still remain friends and collaborate. If they believe in Christ, excellent, we have a catechism. It’s only 700 pages.

And his parting words about his hope for the world:

I would like everybody to believe in Jesus Christ the Savior; not just to believe, but to live their faith. No à la carte Christianity will do: choosing what elements of faith you like, leaving the others. I would like to see those who already are Christians to be more fervent, and for those who aren’t, to begin to believe in Jesus Christ. The more that happens, the happier I shall be.

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