At the presentation of his new book Cardinal Robert Sarah said that Western society is rapidly forgetting God, and expressed his desire to help people rediscover him through both prayer and witness.
“I would like to help people discover God in their lives, because many of us have lost God,” Cardinal Sarah told CNA at the Nov. 20 presentation of his new book, “God or nothing.”
“God is disappearing from society, from culture, from the economy, no one is interested in God,” he said, which is why he thought of the need to bear witness to the fact that “God exists, that God is our life.”
Without God, the cardinal said, “we are nothing. Without God man doesn't know where he is, where he is going and therefore it's a testimony of faith. Without God we are lost.”
Released last month, “God or nothing” was officially presented yesterday in Rome’s Santa Maria dell'Anima church.
In addition to Cardinal Sarah, brief interventions were also given by Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy; Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Published so far in French, English, Italian and German, the book offers Cardinal Sarah’s insights on current hot-button issues, such as gender ideology and the definition of marriage, as well as the mission of the Church, the joy of the Gospel and the “heresy of activism.”
Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, spoke with CNA before the event began, saying that although it’s not easy to put God back into the minds that have forgotten him, “through our testimony, through our life, we can help people to love God.”
“Not only by reading my book, because it’s not enough to read a book. But you must have an experience… a personal encounter, a personal experience with God.”
In his speech, Archbishop Ganswein said Cardinal Sarah has “prophetic” insights, and likened him to Pope St. Gelasius I, who in the late 400s succeeded in stopping the emperor, Anastasius I, from declaring power over the Church, as well as the state.
He said that Cardinal Sarah clearly sees how many states today seek to lay claim to the “spiritual power” which belongs exclusively to the Church.
“When the states of the West today attempt to overturn, step by step, natural law at the behest of globally active pressure groups; when they want to adjudge, for themselves, on the very nature of man — as in the highly ideological programs of Gender Mainstreaming — then this is more than just a fatal relapse into the rule of the arbitrary,” Archbishop Ganswein said.
“It is primarily a new submission to that totalitarian temptation that has always accompanied our history, like a shadow.”
This temptation is present in every age, though manifested in a new language, he said, noting that Cardinal Sarah “forcefully insists” that the Church must not give in to the intellectual fashions of the time.
He said that while a state shouldn’t be a religion, as is currently “horrifically expressed” by ISIS, neither should the state “prescribe to the people secularism as a supposedly neutral world view.”
It’s dangerous, the archbishops said, to think of secularism “as if it is nothing more than a new pseudo-religion, which once again takes up where the totalitarian ideologies of the last century left off in attempting to denounce and ultimately extinguish Christianity — and every other religion — as outdated and useless.”
Archbishop Ganswein called Sarah’s book “radical” in the sense of the word’s Latin origin, “radix,” meaning “root,” because in it the cardinal takes us back to the root of our faith and the true radicalism of the Gospel.
Cardinal Sarah awakens us to the fact “that the new forms of indifference to God are not just mental deviations one can simply ignore. He recognizes an existential threat to human civilization par excellence in the moral transformation of our societies,” he said.
The archbishop cautioned that the Gospel is in danger of being transformed by certain “so-called ‘realities of life,’” and insisted that divine revelation must never be adapted to the world.
“The world wants to devour God,” he said, however, “God wants to win over us and the world.”
Like the archbishop, Cardinal Pell in his speech praised Sarah’s boldness in speaking out on contemporary issues, saying that he is part of the return of “the great African theologians.”
Cardinal Sarah himself spoke to CNA about the blossoming faith in Africa, and expressed his hope that it will continue to grow not only in number, but in depth and fidelity to Christ and the Church’s magisterium.
It’s the goal of many African bishops, he said, “to show that we believe in Christ, we are faithful to him, we are faithful to the magisterium,” and to help people in Europe, “who have a bit lost this fidelity to Christ,” to rediscover that Christ is our life.
God is light and truth, he said, explaining that we need truth in order to live correctly, which is why the African bishops are so eager to help people find God through prayer, and especially through fidelity to the magisterium.
“The magisterium is the way that will guide us to God. He’s not only rules or things that are against our liberty, our freedom. No. Doctrine is the way of salvation, the way of liberty and freedom and the way to Jesus,” he said.
Cardinal Sarah also offered his thoughts on Pope Francis’ trip to Africa next week, saying he expects the Pope to discover the great richness the continent has to offer.
Francis, he said, “will discover a living faith, perhaps his message will be to encourage Africans to root their faith in Christ, to not forget that Christ is their faith.”