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Pope Francis accepts Cardinal Robert Sarah’s resignation from divine worship congregation

By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, smiles as he chats with U.S. bishops before a meeting at the congregation at the Vatican Jan. 14, 2020. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2021 / 04:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of Cardinal Robert Sarah as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Sarah, who turned 75 in June 2020, was the most senior African prelate at the Vatican, appointed head of the liturgy department by Pope Francis in November 2014.

He had previously served as the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The Guinean cardinal has written a trilogy of books read widely throughout the Catholic world: “God or Nothing” (2015), “The Power of Silence” (2016), and “The Day Is Now Far Spent” (2019).

Sarah said in a Tweet Feb. 20 that Pope Francis had accepted his resignation after his 75th birthday.

“I am in the hands of God. The only rock is Christ. We will meet very soon in Rome and elsewhere,” he wrote on Twitter.

Aujourd’hui, le pape a accepté la renonciation de ma charge de Préfet de la Congrégation pour le Culte Divin après mon soixante-quinzième anniversaire. Je suis entre les mains de Dieu. Le seul roc, c’est le Christ. Nous nous retrouverons très vite à Rome et ailleurs. +RS

— Cardinal R. Sarah (@Card_R_Sarah) February 20, 2021

During his tenure at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Sarah built a reputation for outspoken commentary on the Church and the world.

In 2016, he encouraged priests to celebrate Mass facing east, prompting a Vatican spokesman to say that his words had been “misinterpreted.”

During the first Synod on the Family in 2014, Cardinal Sarah opposed what he said were efforts by the media “to push the Church [to change] her doctrine” on homosexual unions.

At the 2015 family synod he said threats to the institution of marriage and the family claiming “what Nazi fascism and communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today.”

Sarah was also at the center of a controversy over the presentation of a book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” as a co-authored work by himself and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in January 2020.

The book, subtitled “Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church,” elicited conflicting statements on the extent of the pope emeritus’s involvement in the project.

Sarah defended himself in statements on Twitter, saying Jan. 17, 2020 he met with Benedict and “there is no misunderstanding between us.”

The book contains a chapter credited to Benedict, a chapter credited to Sarah, and an introduction and conclusion, which have been attributed to the two men jointly.

Cardinal Sarah was considered papabile, or a candidate for the papacy, in the 2013 conclave which elected Pope Francis.

Born in 1945 in French Guinea, Sarah was ordained a priest in 1969 for the Diocese of Conakry, after periods of study in Ivory Coast, Guinea, France, Senegal, Rome, and Jerusalem.

Sarah was appointed archbishop of Conakry in 1979, at the age of 34, a position he held until 2001, including during the dictatorship of Ahmed Sékou Touré.

Sarah has been praised for his resistance to Sékou Touré’s Marxist dictatorship, and for maintaining the unity of the Church as an independent institution as Catholic clergy and laity were persecuted.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II brought Sarah to the Vatican when he named him secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

He was appointed president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum in October 2010, and one month later he was elevated to cardinal.

Sarah was named prefect of the Divine Worship congregation in 2014.

During the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, Sarah said in an interview with the French magazine Valeurs actuelles that the sick and dying cannot be denied the sacramental assistance of a priest.

He said: “Priests must do everything they can to remain close to the faithful. They must do everything in their power to assist the dying, without complicating the task of the caretakers and the civil authorities.”

“But no one,” he continued, “has the right to deprive a sick or dying person of the spiritual assistance of a priest. It is an absolute and inalienable right.”

In May last year, Sarah insisted he was wrongly included as a signatory on a controversial open letter arguing that forces could exploit the pandemic in order to usher in a one-world government.

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  1. An exemplary prefect for Divine Worship and the Sacraments when such men are hard to find. Would I emphasize that if it were not questionable that a healthy, astute man at 75 so deeply devoted to a Catholic faith under relentless Modernist encroachment should not request to remain in office? CNA cites differences between the Cardinal and the Vatican on a number of issues, some our traditional sacred cows perhaps now due for ‘reconsideration’ by the Vatican. Remember the alleged nightmare clandestine Rome conference on a new inclusive Modernist Mass? Cardinal Sarah would certainly have opposed it, and it never was heard of again. Although similar was very recently raised again in Germany with the ÖAK study group for a Eucharistic meal fellowship between Catholics and Protestants. Opposed with arguably light opposition by Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Amazonia ever looms as a threat to Apostolic Tradition. With key assignments liberal Cardinal Luis Tagle prefect Propaganda Fide, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, empathetic to adult homosexuality and close associate of disgraced McCarrick assigned camerlongo to the papal electoral process, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life what might we expect as a replacement? Personally I can never dismiss the Pachamamma transaction worship ceremony within Saint Peter’s in the sanctuary area where Christ is worshiped, historically by papal saints Leo, Gregory, Adeodatus, Clement, Damasus, John Paul II. 81 in number. Again bartered for crucifixion. We nonetheless have a great ally and friend of Christ in Sarah to pray in union with, to sacrifice, to fast and abstain with, to implore mercy for his Church. During this especially challenging Lent to offer ourselves for Christ with Christ and in Christ.

    • Dear Fr. Morello,

      Thank you for your great courage, clarity, charity, commitment, sacrifice; and most importantly, for devoting your life to Christ and His bride.

      God Bless,
      Jim Gill

  2. One of the few in the Vatican who has courage, Cardinal Sarah will be sorely missed. We will need bishops and cardinals like him if the Church is to survive. The only place to look for them these days is in Africa and Asia, where they have had to stand up to dictators and endure cultural revolutions. The others, with their privilege and comforts, have abandoned the flock and capitulated to western European post-modernism, sadly led by the Vicar of Christ himself.

    • Make no mistake, John P, the Church will survive. God is in charge, not the sinners in the Holy See. I suggest reading and studying the works of Bishop Robert Barron. He has given me hope and hope eternal! Keep seeking truth!

  3. I wouldn’t expect many good bishops and cardinals to appear in the near future. When an organization becomes as corrupt as the Vatican currently is, good men are pushed out or marginalized while bad ones get promoted. What we need are lay Catholics who are willing to tell bishops and cardinals to go take a flying leap.

  4. “We will meet very soon and elsewhere” says Cardinal Sarah. Pope Benedict had previously said that with Cardinal Sarah “The Liturgy is in good hands”. Now Cardinal Sarah will have more liberty to speak. I look forward to hearing him speak without restraint. In todays Church this sounds very good. Although he would have been perfect in his now former office, had he the liberty he needed.


  6. Would someone please tell me: since Cardinal Sarah was obliged to submit his resignation upon reaching the age 75, and Pope Francis decided to accept his resignation, does this mean that the good Cardinal is not eligible to vote in the next Conclave for a new Pope? What does all this mean? We need prelates like Cardinal Sarah and now he is sidelined???

  7. Catherine – Cardinal Sarah can vote in the conclave until age 80. My question is can he be named pope after age 80? In any case, he will now be freer to speak his mind. Definitely one to listen to.

    • Any baptized male can theoretically be elected pope, although one who was not a bishop would need to be ordained in order to serve as Bishop of Rome. Someone such as Cardinal Sarah could not be ruled out even if he were over 80, unless his health fails or he simply does not want the job. The main difference is that a cardinal over 80 would not participate in the conclave, and thus would not be part of the deliberations. I could see that as a plus; the candidate over 80 would not be able to campaign for himself. If a cardinal over 80 were to be elected, it might be as much a surprise to that cardinal as it would be to the rest of the world. Practically speaking, a non-voting cardinal would be a longshot to be elected Pope, but it could happen.

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