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Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship offers Mass at London's 'Sacra Liturgia' conference on July 6, 2016. Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr
Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Cdl. Sarah criticizes synodality: ‘Jesus never created bishops’ conferences or local Churches’

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

June 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – During a recent visit to the Netherlands, Cardinal Robert Sarah commented on the “silent apostasy” of the West, also recalling that the Church needs to be united under the Vicar of Christ in order not to destroy itself.

“In this day and age, we in the West are living through a silent apostasy. We no longer need God,” said the Cardinal, who is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

He then went on to comment in a veiled way about so-called synodality initiatives springing up in various places, especially in Germany.  

“People are trying to detach the local churches from Rome. People want to be autonomous with regard to Rome and the Vicar of Jesus Christ, that is, Peter, he who gives direction to the church of Rome,” he said.

Sarah also called for the Church to be faithful to its foundations.

“Without Peter, everything in the Catholic Church would be destroyed, reduced to fragments and become nothing. Jesus never created bishops’ conferences or local churches. It is on Peter that He built His Church. Destroying the unity of His church amounts to rejecting Jesus. People want to tear up and destroy the unity of the Church. Who will be surprised at this devilish project?  Is it not true that you in the Netherlands, just as in countless other Western countries, are living in a ‘Church in Need?’” he remarked.

Cardinal Sarah went to Holland at the invitation of “Aid to the Church in Need,” a charity founded by the Dutch priest Werenfried van Straaten in 1947 to bring emergency relief to the Germans suffering from the aftermath of the Second World War. With the rise of communism in Eastern Europe, “Aid to the Church in Need” became a key organization for bringing hope to persecuted Christians. It is still active today, bringing spiritual and material help to persecuted Christians in China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Syria, and other countries.

One of Cardinal Sarah’s most remarkable interventions during this tour was his homily during a Mass in Den Bosch cathedral on the Saturday before Pentecost. The Guinean Cardinal called on European Catholics and on the Church to be faithful to their heritage.

A striking moment came when he quoted a priest who had suffered 12 years imprisonment in Czechoslovakia under the communist regime but had said he preferred to suffer 12 years more rather than live in the West that had “undermined the faith.”

During a meeting with priests and religious on Friday, June 7, in Utrecht, he had already spoken (in French) of the crisis of the Church in Europe, embodied by the fire in Notre Dame in Paris. “Just like at Notre Dame, Western civilization is today in ruins … What has started in Europe, is spreading over the whole world,” Sarah said.

The cause of this is “the rejection of paternity,” the Cardinal explained, the refusal to place oneself in a tradition loosens human beings from their roots, as becomes apparent in the acceptance of “gender ideology.”

There is only one remedy: meeting Jesus and restoring the Church to its original image, Cardinal Sarah added.

A Dutch religious journalist summed up his message: “Priests and bishops kneel too little, they are busy with themselves too much, and with their own activities. In fact, there are too many priests. There is no crisis in the number of priests: there is a crisis of the identity of priests. The priest should be more than an ‘alter Christus’ (another Christ), he should be ‘ipse Christus’ (Christ Himself). The expression of that is priestly celibacy,” were the words of the Cardinal recalled by Fr. Joost Jansen, who writes for katholiek.nl.

Below are lengthy excerpts from Cardinal Sarah’s homily in Den Bosch (translation by LifeSite).

Cardinal Sarah first noted that St. Peter’s “yes” to Christ is an answer to the words: “Follow me,” an invitation that all must accept personally and without curiosity about fellow Christians’ path to heaven.

“This answer holds true for each and every disciple of Christ and also for we Christians of the 21st century. Indeed, it is only through the reading and the daily meditation of the Gospel, through living in a profound connectedness with Jesus and by confirming this intimate friendship in the fruitful reception of Holy Communion that our love for God and our neighbor can grow and become a true, sacrificial love. Thus, only by living with the Lord Jesus and by nourishing ourselves with His word and with the most Holy Eucharist can we grow in charity, which is a true love for our brothers and sisters. Yes, just as He told the Apostle Peter, Jesus tells us, despite our weaknesses, on the eve of Pentecost: “You, follow me!”

Why did Jesus not answer St. Peter's question about St. John's lot? Every human life has its own “mystery,” remarked Cardinal Sarah. “Indeed, the mystery of every human being, that is, his own and unique vocation and assignment in this world are only known to God, and man himself does not know it if it is not revealed to him by the Lord Jesus himself.”

“In order to discover this vocation, the disciple of Christ must learn to listen to Jesus and to follow Him. He must learn to renounce his own will, his egoism, his sin, and let himself be led by the Holy Spirit. The spirit of truth, the helper, shall form him until Christ is formed in him. On the way of our life, led and illuminated by the Word of God and nourished daily by the most Holy Eucharist, we are invited to go forth on the way that God our Father meant for us. Our unity with Christ shall make us discover what wonders God has wrought in us.”

About the Apostles’ witness to Christ, Cardinal Sarah said, “Our faith relies on the witness of the Apostles, in the same way as the faith of the Apostles rests on the witness of Jesus. Jesus gave His life as a sign of fidelity to the truth to which He bears witness. In the same way, the apostles die as martyrs, not because they are fanatics, but because that to which they bear witness is historical facts and not ideas: namely, the coming of God in Jesus Christ among men, the passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus for our salvation.  Even when they are put to death, the facts to which they bear witness are no less realities. This is also true for us: Our witness is built upon the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus. And we should be prepared to die to bear witness to the fact that Jesus lives. It is also the force of His love that makes us act to alleviate the misery of the needy and of all those who suffer all over the world.”

Cardinal Sarah explained that “Aid to the Church in Need” is not a humanitarian NGO but “the expression of our Christian faith” that acts through charity in favor of those who are in spiritual and material need. For Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, the founding of “Church in Need” was the answer to Jesus’ call: “Follow me,” at a time when as a young Norbertine priest he saw the suffering of the famished populations of East Germany.

“Later, Fr. Werenfried, like the Apostle Peter, discovered his true mission that was revealed to him by God in the innermost depths of his soul. While he was considering the events of the 20th century in the light of the message of Our Lady of Fatima, he gradually came to the conclusion that ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ had to be an answer to that message. And that it should also be a direct answer to the call of the Mother of God to pray without ceasing, to do penance, to convert and to turn to God. The ‘total revolution against God,’ as Lenin said, that first came to a climax in the October Revolution in 1917 in Russia, led to a horrible persecution of the Church, which in the many lands where communism got the upper hand, would claim more than 80 million victims.

“On October 13, 1992, when the Soviet empire was collapsing, Fr. Werenfried prayed the rosary on the Red Square in Moscow, in front of Lenin's mausoleum. In his work, Where God Weeps, he tells of the witness of a Czech priest who had spent 12 years in prison under the Communist regime in his country. Here's what this priest, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘I was in prison for 12 years because I wanted to remain faithful to Rome. I was martyred because I did not want to be unfaithful to the Pope. I lost everything for my faith. But this faith has given me a peace and a certainty that turned these prison years into the most enriching years of my life. You in the West have lost this peace in God. You have undermined the faith in such a way that it does no longer offers peace. In your freedom, you have betrayed that for which we have suffered in our persecution. The West has disappointed me deeply. I would rather spend another 12 years in that Communist jail than to remain with you any longer.’

“In this day and age, we in the West are living through a silent apostasy. We no longer need God. People are trying to detach the local churches from Rome. People want to be autonomous with regard to Rome and the Vicar of Jesus Christ, that is, Peter, he who gives direction to the church of Rome. ‘The fully pure church that looks after charity,’ as Ignatius of Antioch said. Without Peter, everything in the Catholic Church would be destroyed, reduced to fragments and become nothing. Jesus never created bishops’ conferences or local Churches. It is on Peter that He built His Church. Destroying the unity of His Church amounts to rejecting Jesus. People want to tear up and destroy the unity of the Church. Who will be surprised at this devilish project? Is it not true that you in the Netherlands, just as in countless other Western countries, are living in a ‘Church in Need?’”

Recalling that Cardinal Wim Eijk in 2013 spoke about the decline of religious practice in the Netherlands that formally were the first purveyors of missionaries the world over, a decline that went hand in hand with mitigation of the Church’s moral requirements that gave Catholics the impression that there was “no need to worry,” Cardinal Sarah offered an explanation about “the roots of evil that are eating away the countries of Europe.”

“Besides financial interests … Europe creates ideologies, it seeks its inspiration in utopia and is losing its soul. Europe has cut itself away from what it most profoundly is. Europe has betrayed itself,” he said, quoting his latest book, The Day Is Now Far Spent.

He went on to preach: “The West is engaged in a process of self-destruction, despite scientific and technological success and an appearance of prosperity. Betrayal is that not what appeared in the life of the Prince of the Apostles, the apostle Peter, in the night from Holy Thursday to Good Friday? Did he not then taste the bitter fruit of this desertion: a boundless sadness and loneliness that could have led him to suicide, like Judas, if he had not met the eyes of the Lord who was begging for his love? (…)

“Let us now ask ourselves this question: Will Europe in the 21st century choose the attitude of Judas, that is, suicide or self-destruction, because it does not dare return to its Christian roots, or shall it, as Pope St. John Paul II asked, be prepared to ‘become conscious of its spiritual heritage?’ To that question, the saintly Pope from Poland answered: ‘The impetus for this can only come from hearing anew the Gospel of Jesus Christ.’”

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