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Online Edition - Vol. IX, No. 7: October 2003

Cardinal Responds to Questions on Liturgy

Wide-ranging questions on the Liturgy were answered by Cardinal Francis Arinze at a conference in July sponsored by the Apostolate for Family Consecration.

The question and answer session followed Cardinal Arinze's talk on the meaning of the Eucharist. The cardinal, who has headed the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since last October, has addressed these summer conferences, held at "Catholic Familyland" in Bloomingdale, Ohio for a number of years. A portion of this summer's session, transcribed by AB from a videotape kindly supplied by the Apostolate for Family Consecration, is presented here.

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Does everybody have to stand until the last person has received Holy Communion?

There is no rule from Rome that everybody must stand during Holy Communion. There is no such rule from Rome. So, after people have received Communion, they can stand, they can kneel, they can sit. But a bishop in his diocese or bishops in a country could say that they recommend standing or kneeling. They could. It is not a law from Rome. They could -- but not impose it. Perhaps they could propose. But those who want to sit or kneel or stand should be left reasonable freedom.

Is that the same thing with the consecration? Can they kneel during the consecration?

A bit different there. The rule from Rome would sanction where the bishops said, "in our country we want people to kneel throughout the consecration". From our office in Rome we will support that. So it is a bit different. But sometimes during the consecration -- suppose it is open-air or it rained and it is muddy -- you could not kneel there. But in the normal church it is possible to kneel.

And that's the normal thing: to kneel during the consecration -- and even, as in this country, to kneel from the beginning -- just before consecration -- right down to just before the Our Father. And that is okay.

Where a particular person cannot kneel -- you have arthritis or you are a mother holding a baby -- that is understood.

Why do so many churches not place the tabernacle in the center of the altar or in a prominent place?

The directives from Rome -- including the new Missal issued two years ago -- say that the tabernacle in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved is to be located in a very prominent place either at the center or at such a side altar that it is really prominent and that around it there are kneelers and chairs so that people can pray -- kneel down or sit down. And it is to be so prominent that nobody should need to look for it when you enter the church.

Therefore, whenever you enter a church and you look for the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and you do not easily see it, then those who arrange it are already wrong. Because it should be prominent -- it should stand out -- to show our faith.

However, it is not a law that it must be at the center. But it is a law that where it is should be prominent. And that it should be easy for people to see it and to go there and pray. But unfortunately in some churches, sometimes those who did it did not know. But they did not know that they did not know.

So you enter the church and you ask where is the tabernacle? "They have taken the Lord away and we do not know where they have put Him". That's what Mary Magdalene said on Easter day.

Has liturgical dance been approved for Masses by your office?

There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass.

The question of dance is difficult and delicate. However, it is good to know that the tradition of the Latin Church has not known the dance. It is something that people are introducing in the last ten years -- or twenty years. It was not always so. Now it is spreading like wildfire, one can say, in all the continents -- some more than others. In my own continent, Africa, it is spreading. In Asia, it is spreading.

Now, some priests and lay people think that Mass is never complete without dance. The difficulty is this: we come to Mass primarily to adore God -- what we call the vertical dimension. We do not come to Mass to entertain one another. That's not the purpose of Mass. The parish hall is for that.

So all those that want to entertain us -- after Mass, let us go to the parish hall and then you can dance. And then we clap. But when we come to Mass we don't come to clap. We don't come to watch people, to admire people. We want to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him pardon for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need.

Don't misunderstand me, because when I said this at one place somebody said to me: "you are an African bishop. You Africans are always dancing. Why do you say we don't dance?"

A moment -- we Africans are not always dancing! [laughter]

Moreover, there is a difference between those who come in procession at Offertory; they bring their gifts, with joy. There is a movement of the body right and left. They bring their gifts to God. That is good, really. And some of the choir, they sing. They have a little bit of movement. Nobody is going to condemn that. And when you are going out again, a little movement, it's all right.

But when you introduce wholesale, say, a ballerina, then I want to ask you what is it all about. What exactly are you arranging? When the people finish dancing in the Mass and then when the dance group finishes and people clap -- don't you see what it means? It means we have enjoyed it. We come for enjoyment. Repeat. So, there is something wrong. Whenever the people clap -- there is something wrong -- immediately. When they clap -- a dance is done and they clap.

It is possible that there could be a dance that is so exquisite that it raises people's minds to God, and they are praying and adoring God and when the dance is finished they are still wrapped up in prayer. But is that the type of dance you have seen? You see. It is not easy.

Most dances that are staged during Mass should have been done in the parish hall. And some of them are not even suitable for the parish hall.

I saw in one place -- I will not tell you where -- where they staged a dance during Mass, and that dance was offensive. It broke the rules of moral theology and modesty. Those who arranged it -- they should have had their heads washed with a bucket of holy water! [laughter]

Why make the people of God suffer so much? Haven't we enough problems already? Only Sunday, one hour, they come to adore God. And you bring a dance! Are you so poor you have nothing else to bring us? Shame on you! That's how I feel about it.

Somebody can say, "but the pope visited this county and the people danced". A moment: Did the pope arrange it? Poor Holy Father -- he comes, the people arranged. He does not know what they arranged. And somebody introduces something funny -- is the pope responsible for that? Does that mean it is now approved? Did they put in on the table of the Congregation for Divine Worship? We would throw it out! If people want to dance, they know where to go.

The American Church has problems. How do we support our bishops and what is the best way to communicate our concerns?

I have not come here with pocketed answers to the questions in this country. So, you have enough leaders -- and among bishops, religious, lay men, lay women, young people in your country -- and you have enough dynamism to examine the problems in the best tradition of the Church and also in solidarity with the universal Church. There is nothing seen [here] that was never seen before.

Persons planning a wedding: Can they just pick anyone to be a Eucharistic minister at their wedding Mass, even if they're not approved?

Well, the question of Eucharistic minister -- you mean the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, that is, those who will help the priest and the deacon when the priest and the deacon are not [sufficient] to give Holy Communion to the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds who are receiving Communion. That's what we mean by Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Which means that if the priests and deacons are many and sufficient for those receiving Holy Communion, nobody else should dare to come near the altar and touch the sacred vessel to distribute Communion, because they were not ordained for that.

It's very important to stress that, because some people do not understand the whole point of these Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Some people think that it is a power struggle for lay people to prove that what the priest can do, so can they. Which means if there are not many people to receive Communion -- suppose there are three priests or two priests and one deacon and 100 people to receive Communion -- then there is no need for even one single Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

However, I noticed in this country many people insist on receiving under two forms -- that means, the form of Body of Christ and Blood of Christ. If the bishop has approved it, that's all right. But it means it demands a lot of care because it is so easy to spill the Precious Blood.

It is so easy, and, as you mentioned earlier, in these days of disease, some people are worried if there are up to 50 people drinking from the same cup. Some people are hesitant.

Why would people not accept intinction? You [the priest] take the Body of Christ and just dip in the Precious Blood and give it to the person on the tongue. But the ministers must be priests or deacons, if they want that.

So the full answer to the question is, if the communicants are not too many and the ordinary ministers -- that means priests and deacons -- are enough; the question of Extraordinary Ministers does not arise. Therefore, there is no question of choosing them.

Well, the other question was, there is a wedding being planned and they're wanting to choose who will be the Eucharistic ministers and they might not even be approved by the bishop.

Oh, Lord help us! Lord help us! If the bishop has not approved the person to distribute Holy Communion, then the person does not distribute!

The only case where it would be allowed, by the books from Rome, is if the number of communicants is very high and it would take too long for the priest to do it alone -- then the priest, the priest himself, can choose one of the people and say, "I authorize you, just for today, to help me to distribute Holy Communion". Lest it take too long; that is allowed. But only the priest, and only when the communicants are too many. So, the question of those marrying choosing does not arise.

One thing I've seen before [is] where they have the ciborium out, and people come up and take our Precious Lord out of there and dip our Lord into the Precious Blood and place it on their own tongue themselves.

Forbidden. Not correct. Because the nature of the Holy Eucharist is such that the person who is not a priest celebrating the Mass must be given the Body of Christ. You say "amen". And you receive, on the tongue or in the hand. If you are not the priests celebrating Mass -- if you are the deacon assisting -- you must be given [Communion]. You may not take.

Even if you are bishop or cardinal, and you are not celebrating that Mass, you must be given. You must not take.

For example, if you watch us in Rome in St. Peter's basilica or square, when the pope is saying a major Mass, there may be 40 cardinals, 100 bishops. When we are not concelebrating -- we are wearing red vestments but we are not concelebrating -- we are just assisting at Mass as all of you who are baptized. When it is time for Communion, we receive, exactly as everybody else. A deacon comes to us and says "the Body of Christ". I say "amen". He gives to me, and the same for all.

None of us is allowed to take. We must be given. This is the Church law. It is not to lower anybody, it is just the nature of the sacrament. Even when Christ multiplied bread and fish, He told the apostles to distribute it. It was a sign.

So the Church that regulates Eucharistic practice says that the holy Body and Blood of Christ will be given us. We will not take. Only the celebrating priests or the concelebrating communicate themselves. Everybody else must be given it, even if that person is a bishop or a priest.

Will Catholic universities here in the United States ultimately be given the ultimatum that they must start sound Catholic teaching?

[laughing] There is no need for a new law because that law is already there. So there is no need for a new law that they should teach Catholic teaching. It's normal. So there is no need for a fresh law. It would be good, however, that parents, if you think that those -- some university is not teaching Catholic doctrine, the parents should not be silent. Because you send your children and you pay.

Well, what was your reaction at Georgetown?

(In May, the cardinal gave a commencement address at Georgetown University that was followed by protests of some faculty and students. ­ Ed.)

I gave my talk -- only three pages of ordinary Catholic doctrine. [applause]

In the history of the Church, were there ever women priests? Women can't be made priests, at any time; even the pope can't do that, can he?

No, the pope issued a document about seven years ago* saying that the Church has no power to ordain women priests. There were never women priests in the Church. If Christ would have wanted women to be priests, His Blessed Mother surely should have been number one.

* Ordinatio Sacerdotalis

What is the Vatican doing to reform seminaries with a better spiritual formation, and also to increase vocations to the priesthood?

Well, the offices of the Holy Father are doing what they can, but of course, the major action is in bishops' dioceses and the bishops' conferences and the seminaries around the world. Most of them are regional -- that means several dioceses together run a seminary. The offices of the Holy Father give instructions, indications, help. The bishops come to Rome together every five years and they visit the various offices and they also visit the pope and this type of thing is discussed. But we must not expect that from the Vatican that there will be an instant solution to problems all around the world, because the Church is universal but also local.

Could you address the Church's teaching on abstaining from meat on Fridays outside of Lent?

The law is that we don't -- well, Good Friday and Ash Wednesday are the major days for fasting in general for those who have reached the age 21 and are not yet 60. Abstinence, that means no meat on those days for those who are age 14 [or over]. General canon law says that Fridays are days of abstinence -- no meat -- but if you want to eat meat, you should substitute some other form of penance. That's the Church law.

In the United States, we have adequate income, why would we have to use glass or porcelain for the precious Blood and the Body of our Lord on the altar and not gold?

Oh, for the vessels. Ah! Actually, the liturgical laws forbid [this]. This is actually for bishops and priests to work out, because you cannot work out all that. But the liturgical laws are laid down about what type of vessel will be allowed at Mass.

Glass is forbidden. Yes, Forbidden. And anything that can break. Not to talk of those using baskets! Terrible things happen in this world!

However, not all priests know that. There are places where they had glass and they didn't know.

Therefore, if there is glass being used in your parish when you go next week, don't begin firing in all directions and telling them "Cardinal Arinze said no glass so I'm going to fight you". Don't do that! [He laughs.]

Is it appropriate for a Catholic parish to institute a dress code for Mass that requires minimum standards of modesty?

That is to demand that people must dress well before they get into the church. Well, it is a question of prudence. Perhaps it can work. Although in the world of today there are some people that are so unreasonable that if you try to push this, sometimes the person operating it gets a nervous breakdown.

However, there are some cases where there is such an offense against modesty that absolutely such people should not be allowed into a church building. Some break all the rules of common sense. But it is not the sort of thing you like to impose from Rome. It is the sort of thing that you like to leave to the good sense of those who look after a particular Church.

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