Entitled “Confronting the Culture of Death: John Paul II’s Prophetic Vision for the Renewal of Christian Culture,” Francis Cardinal Arinze delivered the keynote address at Christendom College’s 15th Annual Summer Institute on July 17.

Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Arinze was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by College President Timothy O’Donnell, after which His Eminence spoke on the teaching of Pope John Paul II on the Sacred Liturgy, especially on the Holy Eucharist.

Addressing over 325 attendees from across America, he explained that the Sacred Liturgy is at the center of the Holy Father’s pontificate. In many documents of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the sacred liturgy and the Holy Eucharist have figured prominently, said His Eminence, especially in the encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

“The Eucharistic celebration has a cosmic character,” said Cardinal Arinze. “The Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ; It builds the Church and gives her continued life and evangelistic and missionary dynamism. It is a celebration of the Church and this explains why Catholic ministers licitly administer this sacrament only to Catholic faithful.”

In speaking of liturgical matters, Cardinal Arinze said that the Holy Father is also aware of difficulties and erroneous applications and exaggerations.

“Some people tend to prefer private and personal participation to community celebrations. Others have rejected the renewed rites while considering the old rites as the sole guarantee of certainty in faith. Yet others have promoted outlandish innovations and ignored the liturgical norms issued by the Apostolic See or the Bishops. All these people are invited to retrace their steps to full faith in the Church and unity and fidelity in her celebrations.”

The Holy Father urges all Christ’s faithful to observe the liturgical norms established by the Church because of the very nature of the sacred liturgy.

“Not even a priest can add or subtract anything on his own initiative from the approved sacred texts. A lack of fidelity on the part of the celebrant can even affect the validity of a sacrament,” said the Cardinal.

“The quarter-century of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II has brought many blessings to the Church also in the liturgical field. Let us pray the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ our Savior whose mysteries we celebrate in the sacred liturgy, to obtain for us the grace to do our part to listen, to believe, to take part in liturgical celebrations and to live in our daily lives what we have celebrated,” concluded Cardinal Arinze.

Earlier in the day, College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell delivered a powerful talk on Pope John Paul II’s much publicized and misunderstood “Mass of Pardon” of March 12, 2000, in which his Holiness asked forgiveness from the Lord for the past and present sins of Christ’s faithful.

“When the Holy Father acts he is not limited to the corridors of time,” said O’Donnell. “He was seeking forgiveness; it was a request for pardon made to God. In offering this Mass, the Holy Father did something that no other leader could do because only a pope, as successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ, can speak for the Church, past and present,” he said.

As a point of interest, O’Donnell explained that although the secular press had reported that the Pope apologized to the world for the sins committed by members of the Catholic Church, the Holy Father never actually used words “apology” or “apologize” in the Mass.

“Pope John Paul II,” said O’Donnell, “was functioning like a great high priest who in his person takes the burden of his people’s guilt, like on the great Day of Atonement in the Sanctuary, he was seeking forgiveness and cried out to God the Father to accept the repentance of his people who humbly confess their sins.”

Fr. Anthony Mastroeni, a professor of Theology at the College, followed O’Donnell’s presentation by addressing Pope John Paul II’s writings on the priesthood as found in Pastore Dabo Vobis and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

He pointed out the relevance of the Pope’s teaching in light of the current scandals facing the Church today regarding the priesthood. He stated that today’s clergy sex scandal is due to an identity crisis among the clergy.

“The Pope,” he stated, “continually exhorts priests to follow Our Lords example of Holiness. The identity of the priest comes from Christ. It takes tremendous power to create a priest…it’s likened to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit comes down upon that priest and ‘recreates him, refashions him’ into the very likeness of the Eternal High Priest, the Head, and the Spouse of the Church, Jesus Christ. Today priests think they need to be a regular guy, but the world is full of regular guys! What the world needs is for a priest to be an Alter Christus; an other Christ,” he concluded.

Marcus Grodi, the Director of the Coming Home Network and the host of the weekly EWTN program, The Journey Home, spoke of Pope John Paul II’s teachings on conversion in which he focused on Redemptoris Missio. In it the Pope states that conversion “is a gift of God, the work of the Blessed Trinity. It is the spirit who opens hearts.”

Grodi explained that conversion is at the center of everything.

“We don’t want to just stop abortion, we hope for the conversion of those who participate in this sin. People ask me what the ‘silver bullet’ for conversions is. It’s grace. God picks the time and place, all we must do is pray, for prayer opens the doors for grace…this is the theme of John Paul’s teachings on conversion.”

An associate professor of philosophy at Christendom College, Dr. John Cuddeback then addressed the audience on the Pope’s teachings on Culture.

“Culture is formative, for good or for evil, of moral character; it is formative of the worldview, the habits, the desires of human persons,” said Cuddeback. “It is a real factor in determining how receptive to grace and holiness a human soul will be. If there are not many today who see culture in this way, there is at least one: the visible head of Christ’s Church on earth. Pope John Paul II speaks often, and with obvious urgency, about matters of culture. This Shepherd of souls knows what his flock needs, and what threatens it. The Vicar of Christ has warned us that we live in a veritable culture of death. We can be sure that his concern goes well beyond that for the life of the unborn and the aged. The spiritual life of all persons is at stake here.”

Next year’s conference will be held on July16, 2005, and will feature EWTN’s Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

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