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from issue no. 10 - 2005

Interview with Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali

For a liturgy faithful to the letter of Vatican II

Subsequently in the application of the Conciliar directives there were abuses. Some were dealt with, some not. The Church is determined that the liturgy be faithful always to the letter of the Council and not to its fanciful interpretations.

Interview with Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali by Gianni Cardinale

Justin Francis Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia with Tuscan roots, was the only cardinal to be part of the delegation elected by the United States Episcopal Conference to participate in the Synod. The American cardinal, before being nominated Archbishop of Saint Louis in 1994 and of Philadelphia in 2003, and before holding important positions in the Roman Curia (he was president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and then Secretary of the Congregation for the Bishops), worked in the Secretariat of State between 1964 and 1966 and then from 1970 to 1985, and in this period between the two posts there was also that of “interpreter” of Popes Paul VI and John Paul I in the audiences granted to ecclesiastics and English speaking personages. Cardinal Rigali is a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and of APSA.
Justin Francis Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia

Justin Francis Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia

Your Eminence, the subject of the viri probati and that of remarried divorcees were those most heard during the celebration of the Synod. At least according to the media…
JUSTIN FRANCIS RIGALI: It cannot be said absolutely that they were the most dealt with. But it is true that they caused reflection among the synodal fathers. Not least because they are subjects that ask the pastoral concern of the Church for all the faithful. And it is important that no group feels itself excluded from this concern. It is the concern of the Church that each of the faithful be able participate every Sunday at a true and proper mass. And the Synod discussed what the Church can and cannot do for the faithful who are unable to have a mass regularly.
As for the problem of the scarcity of priests the words of the Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes about the future of the Church in his country made rather an impression, seeing that by now there are two Protestant pastors for every Catholic priest there…
RIGALI: One has to contextualize. Cardinal Hummes was speaking about Brazil and Latin America, about the efforts of the sects to expand in a country, in a continent traditionally Catholic. They are statistics that cause apprehension, but the Synod arrived at the conclusion that the viri probati is not the way to go.
Regarding the question of remarried divorcees voices were heard that wanted a smoother functioning of the ecclesiastical courts for the causes of matrimonial annulment…
RIGALI: The Church lives and acts in truth and charity. The Church has love and concern for everyone, including remarried divorcees. Certainly if a remedy for these delicate situations can be found in the ecclesiastical courts, it must be the concern of the Church that this should be so without useless burdens. But there are cases which cannot be remedied in this way; then the Church must be obedient to the teaching of Jesus about the indissolubility of marriage.
Except for an intervention in extremis, the believers loyal to what is called the mass of Saint Pius V were not spoken of in the Synod hall. Does this mean that it is an issue not felt by the Church?
RIGALI: I saw that in the last issue of 30Days you gave space to some interviews on the subject. That too shows the great interest of the Church in those faithful who are bound to the old liturgy, both those in full communion with Rome, and the so called Lefebvrians who are in an irregular situation. In this case the Church will do everything to resolve the question according to truth and charity, in line with the great teaching of the Church.
A subject that did find a greater echo among the synodal fathers was that of Catholic politicians and legislators who promote and support laws against the teachings of the Church…
RIGALI: This is an important question and not only for the United States. Our Episcopal Conference discussed it at length, in attempting to arrive at practical solutions valid for concrete situations. There are norms and they are norms of a divine nature, but it is not easy to design a mode for their application that would be valid universally. Because of this, the Synod appealed to the strength and prudence of single bishops in dealing with the question when it presents itself.
What was the Synod’s overall evaluation of the post-conciliar liturgical reform?
RIGALI: The Vatican II Council, including the Constitution on the Liturgy, was a great blessing. The Synod stressed this. Subsequently in the application of the conciliar directives there were abuses. Some have been dealt with, some not. The Church is determined that the liturgy be faithful always to the letter of the Council and not to its fanciful interpretations.
There were a couple of procedural innovations at the Synod. The first was the introduction of an evening hour of free discussion…
RIGALI: It was a very useful innovation. It provided the occasion to intervene promptly and concisely. It was a splendid initiative. It was needed.
The second novelty was that the Pope spoke often with his own personal reflections…
RIGALI: It is always a joy to hear Pope Ratzinger. One remains enchanted by the capacity with which he develops his argumentations. In his second speech he dealt with a subject – that of the Eucharist as sacrifice and banquet – that, as he himself explained, he had studied for fifty years. We were fortunate to be able to hear the reflections resulting from such long and profound study.
Four Chinese bishops were also invited to the Synod who were, however, unable to come. Their letters arrived though and one of these was read out in the hall…
RIGALI: In China there are millions of faithful who have preserved their faith in a moving way. But China was absent this time from the Synod. The letters sent by the Chinese prelates were a blessing, an important sign of the spiritual unity of the Church. For decades the thought of the Church has gone with particular attention to the Chinese people. Especially under Pope John Paul II, but also under Pope Montini. I remember how Paul VI, during his visit to Manila, in November 1970, exactly thirty-five years ago, broadcast through Radio Veritas to the whole Asian continent. I was there present and I am a witness to the joy of the Pope at being able to make his own voice reach China from the nearby Philippines.
Your Eminence, sermons were also spoken about in the Synod and it was hoped for a manual on the subject. Will we arrive at a book of pre-prepared homilies to use in all the churches of the world?
RIGALI: How to go about giving sermons that are of true help and comfort for the faithful was discussed, and how to help the priests on this point. A possibility might be that of pastoral aids to be consulted by the celebrants. Certainly not that of preparing “pre-cooked” homilies.

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