It has been just over a year since Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera took over from Cardinal Francis Arinze as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The cardinal, nicknamed by some as the “little Ratzinger” for being of similar mind to the Holy Father, has been an outspoken defender of the faith in the face of rampant secularism, most notably in his native Spain.

He spoke recently about the best ways of dealing with secularism, the importance of the liturgy in building a culture of life, and the chances of a new encyclical on the liturgy.


How is the Church currently dealing with secular fundamentalism in Spain?

I think that the Church is dealing firmly with these difficulties, but it’s difficult because [Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez] Zapatero isn’t distinct from the rest of the government.

Obama is like Zapatero. He [Zapatero] is intelligent, but he and the government have the same theology — the same dominant theology of man without God. It’s about a society in which there is freedom for everyone, for example freedom in the preamble of abortion law in Spain, freedom which is absolute for everyone.

It’s about putting freedom before human rights — freedom to do whatever you want, to decide whatever you want. It rules out care for others, God, the law.


What’s the best approach to counter this ideology?

To work in the field of culture. I think, as John Paul II often said, there needs to be an evangelization of culture.

To evangelize the culture means having our gaze fixed on Christ because a man who accepts Christ — who is truly man — will have Christ’s mentality, thoughts and feelings. In this way, one can change the culture and bring about a new culture.

The civilization of love, as John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called for, seems to be a work of evangelization because in such a society God really is recognized as God. The problem of our times is a culture built without God.


Is the Church in Spain also succeeding in helping to bring about a civilization of love?

We need to work more in the field of culture. We [the Church] have 30% of the schools in Spain. These institutions are close to the Church.

We have six or eight Catholic universities, which is a lot, almost 100,000 students. So there’s a great opportunity there to work in the field of culture and build a new culture.

We are also in the field of social communications and on television, and this means the Church must do all it can to build a new mentality in Spanish society because this isn’t only a question of changing laws, although that’s necessary.

We must also change the mentality, because the dominant mentality is not a Christian one. We must have a new Gospel mentality in this new society.

I think that we must do as St. Benedict did in his time — reconstruct a world by focusing on two things: to search for God, and then to imitate the person of Christ. This involves renewing the liturgy, reintroducing a correct sense of freedom, presenting a true and stronger sense of religiosity, and so on.


Would you say the situation in Spain is a little different because of your particular history of church-state relations?

The roots of Spain are Christian; the identity of Spain is Christian.

Spain was born out of the Third Council of Toledo in the seventh century. Christendom began in Spain at that moment.

Afterwards, Spain was lost to the Muslims, and in the Middle Ages there were battles to recover the lost Spain. This is a unique story in the history of humanity.

All this history is in reality inseparable from our Christian heritage, and if this is not taught in schools, it goes against the real identity of the country. These Christian roots are very historical and deep, and for this reason there’s much hope of a revival in the near future.


But there are still remnants of resentment from the days of Franco?

Yes, but today it doesn’t influence anyone — that was a time in the past one can’t hide, but in reality it’s now just part of the Church’s history.


How important is the liturgy in reinforcing Christian identity today, in confronting secular fundamentalism?

The liturgy is God’s feast par excellence. It’s where we can identify God.

It’s prayer. It’s where we can discover salvation, the work of grace — all of which are God’s initiative. When this is lived, when it is at the center of one’s life, the heart changes, the mentality changes, and society changes too.

Benedict XVI reminds us that the first document of the Second Vatican Council was Sacrosanctum Concilium. The last document was Gaudium et Spes.

If we want to be present as Christians in the world, to form and renew the world, to bring peace, freedom, etc., we cannot do that without leaning on the liturgy, on Sacrosanctum Concilium.

For this reason, the Holy Father is very committed to renewing the liturgy, to recovering Sacrosanctum Concilium.


Do you think the Holy Father will write an encyclical or apostolic letter dedicated to the liturgy?

I’ve never spoken about this to the Holy Father, but 2013 will mark the 50th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium. That would be a good moment, don’t you think?

But I’ve never spoken about this with him, and I don’t know if he’s thinking about it. We have, thanks be to God, many good and extraordinary reflections from this Holy Father.

He has been a great theologian, as a professor, as a bishop, as a cardinal, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and also as a pope. What he has written — for example, his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist — is really almost an encyclical on the liturgy.

The new Compendium on the Eucharist is also important.

The Compendium on the Eucharist summarizes the principal documents in three parts: the principal teachings of the Church on the Eucharist, from the Gospel of John to the traditions of the Church and the Council of Trent, the Second Vatican Council and some writings of the popes, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and summaries of all the doctrinal principles.

Then in the second part are liturgical texts which express the true sense of the Eucharist.

The last part contains the texts of prayers, hymns and an appendix on regulations for the celebration of the Eucharist. This was published in response to requests from the bishops at the Synod on the Eucharist, and the need is also mentioned by the Holy Father in his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist.

This is only an instrument, an addition, because the Eucharist is really at the center of the Christian life. There are no new positions taken; it’s simply a compendium of what already exists.

It doesn’t go into rites and things, just the most important doctrinal points related to the Blessed Sacrament.

Edward Pentin writes from Rome.