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Cardinal Sarah: God never abandons His Church

“True reform is about our own conversion,” said CardinalRobert Sarah in a recent interview with a French weekly. “If we do not change ourselves, all structural reforms will be useless. Lay people, priests, cardinals, we must all return to God…”

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, leaves a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 5, 2018. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2019 / 12:39 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Robert Sarah defended papal primacy and priestly celibacy, and called for unity among Catholics in the face of Church scandals and the moral crisis in the Western world during an interview published March 27.

“Today everything is dark, difficult, but whatever the difficulties we are going through, there is only one person who can come to our rescue,” Sarah said in a lengthy interview with the secular French weekly Valeurs actuelles.

“It is the resurrection of the Son of God that gives hope in the darkness,” he said.

Sarah, Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, emphasized that the Church’s “great divine mission” is to “bring men to Christ, who is our Hope.”

The cardinal, originally from Guinea, has written a new book with Nicolas Diat on the “profound spiritual, moral, and political crisis in the contemporary world” published in French, titled “Evening Approaches and the Day is Now Far Spent.”

[CWR editorial note: The English edition, titled The Day Is Now Far Spent, will be available from Ignatius Press in September.]

The title of the book is taken from a line in Luke’s Gospel, in which the resurrected Christ meets his disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Stay with us, Lord, evening approaches and the day is now far spent.”

While articulating the moral confusion that plagues Western societies, the cardinal also pointed to God’s providence in providing popes to lead the Church in difficult times.

“God saw that the world was sinking into a fatal confusion …To prepare ourselves for this situation, God has given us solid popes,” Sarah explained. He then listed the particular gifts that the four most recent popes gave to the Church and the world.

God “gave us Paul VI, who defended the life and true love, despite very strong opposition, with the encyclical Humanae vitae,” he said.

God gave us John Paul II, whose life itself “was a living Gospel,” and taught that the union of faith and reason together is “a light that guides the world towards a true vision of man,” he said. While Benedict XVI  gifted the world by teaching with “unparalleled clarity, depth and precision.”

“Today, He gives us Francis, who literally wants to save Christian humanism,” Sarah explained, adding, “God never abandons His Church.”

Sarah said that “we must rediscover this primary responsibility of the pope and each bishop.”

“Christ founded a Church whose mode of government is hierarchical. The first person in charge of the Church is the pope. The first person in charge of the local Church is the bishop in his diocese, and not the episcopal conference, which is useful for exchanging (views), not for imposing a direction,” he said when asked about synodality.

The cardinal warned that contradictions between different bishops’ conferences on moral teachings do not serve Catholic unity and faith. “An episcopal conference has no legal authority or competence in the field of doctrine,” he said.

The great bishops of history, Ambrose and Augustine, did not spend their time in meetings, commissions, and constant travel, he said. “The bishop must be with his people, teach his people, love his people.”

“True reform is about our own conversion. If we do not change ourselves, all structural reforms will be useless. Lay people, priests, cardinals, we must all return to God,” Sarah said.

He highlighted the lives of St. Francis and Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, as exemplars of reform, who “transformed the Church by living the Gospel radically.”

Sarah said that the primary responsibility for the collapse of faith in the West “must be assumed by the priests.” He pointed to decades when, he said, confessionals were empty, liturgy desacralized, and doctrine was not taught in Catholic universities and seminaries.

“Clearly, there is a strong majority of priests who remain faithful to their mission of teaching, sanctification and government. But there is also a small number that yields to the morbid and villainous temptation to align the Church with the values ​​of today’s Western societies,” Sarah said.

“They want above all to say that the Church is open, welcoming, attentive, modern. But the Church is not made to listen, she is made to teach: she is Mater and magistra, mother and educator,” he added.

Cardinal Sarah defended celibacy in the priesthood, calling it one of the “greatest riches of the Church.”

“The abandonment of celibacy would further aggravate the crisis of the Church and lessen the position of the priest, who is called to be not only another Christ, but Christ himself, poor, humble and single,” he said.

The cardinal also emphasized the importance of a united community in facing the challenges of the secularized world, which often opposes “the road of Christ.”

“In Hemingway’s novel ‘The Old Man and the Sea,’ we see the hero attempting to tow a large fish he has fished to the port. But he can not hoist him alone out of the water; by the time it arrives at the port, the sharks have devoured the fish,” he explained.

“Today, if you are alone, there are many sharks that will devour your faith, your Christian values, your hope. Jesus created a community of twelve apostles and when it was necessary to send them on mission, he sent them two by two,” he continued.

“From now on, to defend our belief, to be solid, we must support each other in faith, walk as a united community around Christ,” he said.


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15 Comments

  1. Marvelous pious babble from Cardinal Sarah who has refused for two years to actually do anything and condemn the heresies and vulgarities of the pope he has this week praised as “solid” as he cravenly hides himself in his protected cone of silence to manufacture his next tome.

    “God has given us Paul VI, who defended the life and true love with the encyclical Humanae vitae, despite a very strong opposition. He gave us John Paul II, who worked on a marriage between faith and reason in order that they be the light that guides the world towards a true vision of man – the very life of the great Polish Pope was a living Gospel. He gave us Benedict XVI, who put together a teaching of unparalleled clarity, depth and precision. Today, he gives us Francis who literally wants to save Christian humanism.”

  2. What a stark contrast between Cardinal Sarah and Pope Bergoglio.

    Holy men like the good Cardinal prove that the Lord has not abandoned His Church.

  3. Beneath structural change runs the flux of Man’s spiritual sea. Whatever the device it’s the flux, the determinant current that matters. Cardinal Sarah is the right man for the right post Prefect for Divine Worship. Regarding Synodality, “The first person in charge of the local Church is the bishop in his diocese, and not the episcopal conference, which is useful for exchanging views, not for imposing a direction”. He perceives the Church as hierarchal by necessity because Synodality envisioned by Cardinal Carlo Martini SJ implemented by Pope Francis [SJ] is geared toward the decomposition of the Hierarchal system with apparent intent to facilitate accommodation of Church and local culture. Cardinal Sarah kindly says of the Pontiff that he “literally wants to save Christian humanism”. There is an impasse on the issue of social justice conservatives who approach it as realpolitik supervised by Christian principles akin to political philosopher Mahoney’s argument whereas socialists and arguably the Church as evidenced by Cardinal Marx in Germany, Catholicism in China apparently the Vatican tends to omit Christianity. The Pope seems in search of a middle ground though leaning further away from what alone binds our spiritual identity Jesus Christ. Christ gave us principles that transcend the natural order and also gave us an intellect to reason. Faith and reason allow for the necessary transcendent target needed for personal sanctity and equatable justice while remaining relevant. Why the impasse if not overall distancing from Christ? “Primary responsibility for the collapse of faith in the West must be assumed by the priests” (Sarah). Hierarchy are also priests. It’s collective guilt. Cardinal Sarah rightly perceives the solution in return to the Church as a universal community, hierarchal and centered on faith in Christ. Otherwise we as priests remain akin and to those of old awaiting the same fate, Whose priests fell by the sword, and whose wives made no lament (Ps 78, 64).

  4. This is the best and most knowledgeable information I have read regarding the church and the current problems. It is stated so simply and with clarity. Thank you.

  5. From the article; “But the Church is not made to listen, she is made to teach: she is Mater and magistra, mother and educator,”.

    And that is why the problems will never be resolved; an attitude that we are right, there is no need to consider any other view nor to listen to anybody.

    Pray, pay, and obey is, unfortunately, still the way of the institution.

    • “And that is why the problems will never be resolved; an attitude that we are right, there is no need to consider any other view nor to listen to anybody.”

      If you don’t think that the Church knows the truth and is supposed to teach it, then you’re not Catholic, and if you’re pretending to be then you’re part of the problem.

      • Mothers and educators may teach the truth, but they should still listen.
        .
        And in the age of Amoris Leatitia, is Mater/magistra even speaking/teaching the truth? Certainly, the hierarchy has not taught anything on the evils of contraception and significant problems with divorce in decades.
        .

  6. What Cardinal Sarah said here is very important: The first person in charge of the local Church is the bishop … not the episcopal conference … for imposing a direction..” “…contradictions between different bishops’ conferences on moral teachings do not serve Catholic unity and faith.” I wish that Bishops would recall this when collecting funds for Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Our local bishops, through denial and re-direction, have always noted the “good works done” and the “endorsement of the USCCB” to justify giving to “Catholic” organizations that fund and engage in training, literature, work and lobbying that goes against Church Teaching in regard to abortion, contraception, and immoral sexual practices.

  7. The young in Africa and Asia are not turning to the Catholic Church but to protestant sects.
    A young Robert Sarah in our time might very likely be in some evangelical congregation.
    A pope who abjures and even ridicules Catholic proselytisation gives succour to such fundamentally anti-Orthodox Christian forces. Christian in much of the contemporary world means pentecostal/evangelical Protestantism. The virtual collapse of the Catholic Church in one of its former ‘heartlands’ Latin America does not seem to disturb him.
    Cardinal Sarah is cautious in his words. He has many enemies who regard his theological orthodoxy and social conservatism as ‘backward’. A slight at his African origins no doubt. The Berber, St Augustine might well have delivered a suitable retort to such a put down.
    His Eminence would make a fine pope, just the man to initiate the clear up of the ever growing Bergoglian mess.

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