The cardinal said some criticisms of the former pope's preface to his latest book were 'diabolical and cover the Church with a mantle of sadness and shame'

Cardinal Robert Sarah has hit out at critics of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, accusing them of “vulgarity and baseness” in their criticisms of the former pope’s preface to the cardinal’s latest book.

“The arrogance, the violence of language, the disrespect and the inhuman contempt for Benedict XVI are diabolical and cover the Church with a mantle of sadness and shame,” Cardinal Sarah said.

“These people demolish the Church and its profound nature.”

In a preface to Cardinal Sarah’s book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, Benedict XVI wrote that Pope Francis deserves praise for appointing Cardinal Sarah to oversee the Church’s liturgy.

However, critics have accused the former pope of meddling in Church politics and trying to undermine Pope Francis.

“A Christian does not fight anyone,” Cardinal Sarah said. “A Christian has no enemy to defeat. Christ asks Peter to put his sword into his scabbard [Mt 26: 52-53]. This is the command of Christ to Peter, and it concerns every Christian worthy of the name.”

In a wide-ranging speech at the Sacra Liturgia conference in Milan, the cardinal also lamented the practice of receiving Communion standing and in the hand.

He cited how Pope John Paul II, even when he was “wracked with sickness”, always knelt in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

“He forced his broken body to kneel,” the cardinal said. “He needed the help of others to bend his knees, and again to stand. What more profound testimony could he give to the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament than this, right up until his very last days.”

The Cardinal also quoted St Teresa of Calcutta, saying: “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.”

At his address to the Sacra Liturgia conference in London last year, Cardinal Sarah made headlines by proposing priests face east (ad orientem), urging as many as possible to do so starting at Advent.

This year, he reiterated his support for facing east, saying: “I have spoken many times about the importance of recovering this orientation, of facing east in the celebration of the liturgy today, and I maintain what I have said on those occasions.”