Cañizares: “I told Francis I wanted to live with the smell of the sheep”
Interview with the Prefect for Divine Worship who leaves the Curia: “It is a great joy to me, Valencia has not had a Valencian bishop for over 100 years. The Pope has supported us in our work for the liturgy”ANDREA TORNIELLI Vatican City
“I told Pope Francis: I want to live with the smell of the sheep. It was my desire to return to a diocese…”. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, the Prefect for Divine Worship, who has just been appointed archbishop of Valencia, smiles brightly because of his long awaited appointment, that was announced yesterday. Those who attempt to present his departure from the Roman Curia as a reduction, or even a “punishment” could not be more wrong. Firstly, because “for a shepherd there is nothing better than being among his flock”. And also because it was the cardinal himself to ask Pope Francis to return to serving as bishop in a diocese.
How did you welcome the news?
“I am really very happy. I return to my home diocese, which has not had a Valencian bishop for over 100 years…”
How do you live with your removal from the Curia?
“It was my wish. It was [I] who told Francis that I wanted to have the smell of the sheep. I asked to go back to a diocese, any diocese that the Pope would want to send me to. To me it was a great joy and a great honour that the Holy Father chose Valencia, one of the dioceses in Spain and in Europe that is most alive, even due to the number of its vocations. It is a sign of gratitude and recognition towards me, a gift from Francis that moves me, I am really grateful for it”.
What can you say about these five years you have spend at the head of the ministry that deals with liturgy?
“I am grateful for this experience in the Curia. We have worked to carry on the liturgical renewal wanted by the Second Vatican Council. One of the most fundamental moments was the symposium on the constitution of the Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as the documents we published and those that are still being written and will be published soon. We need to keep on working so that the Council is fully implemented in the liturgical field ,according to what Benedict XVI stated: God is the subject of liturgy, not us. Liturgy is not an action of man but an action of God”. (My comment: I recall Pope Francis saying precisely the same thing about Sacrosanctum Concilium and Vatican II, that it hasn't been implemented yet as it should be--keeping continuity with what Pope Benedict had said many times.)
May I ask how Pope Francis was involved in the work of the Congretation for Divine Worship in this one and a half years of pontificate?
“Francis supported the work we were completing. He reiterated to us that more than being concerned with reforms, we needed to be based on the Pascal mystery that happens in the liturgy, to experience the mystery that happens in that moment. Watching the Pope celebrate Mass, we can understand how he experiences what happens during Mass”.
The last few years have not been easy in terms of the relationship between the Church and the Spanish governments. How do you intend to live it?
“I believe that I will have a friendly relationship with the world of politics and institutions, signaled by openness and collaboration, with the sole object of the common good, the good of our people. There have been and there still are difficult situations, not only from an economic and financial point of view. I hope that we can also work for the unity of the country, which is not only political but also anthropological; it is a project that has been alive for more than 14 centuries and is founded on Christian identity”.