Pope Francis accepts resignation of conservative African Cardinal Robert Sarah

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican’s head of the liturgy department. The Holy See Press Office announced on Saturday February 20 that Sarah had stepped down from his position, and his successor has not been appointed.

Pope Francis appointed Sarah as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2014. However, over the years it became evident that the African cardinal and the Pope shared very different views on theological and family matters, such as homosexuality and the church’s relationship with Muslims. Sarah’s outspoken personality and conservative vision for the global church clashed with those of the pontiff. Cardinal Sarah is also said to have “dragged his feet” in implementing changes wanted by Francis, like allowing women to take part in Holy Thursday services. 

Cardinal Sarah submitted his resignation as required by church law in June of 2020 when he turned 75. However, the pope often allows Vatican officials to remain in their posts a few years longer, but not past the age of 80. He will still be able to vote in a conclave to elect a pope until he turns 80 despite resigning. After the announcement on Saturday, Sarah put forth a statement in which he alluded to his age, “Today the Pope has accepted the renunciation of my office as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship after my seventy-fifth birthday. I am in the hands of God. The only rock is Christ. We will meet again very soon in Rome and elsewhere.”

Conservatives in the Church have put Sarah on their lists to succeed Francis as Pope. However, some have seen that possibility as very unlikely because he’s viewed as highly divisive and predicted to have insufficient support among fellow cardinals. Until Francis names Sarah’s replacement, the worship congregation will be led by Archbishop Arthur Roche, an English prelate who has served as the office’s No. 2 official since 2012. Though there is much controversy over Sarah’s future as a Vatican official, the possibility of him succeeding Francis cannot be ruled out. 




Leave a Reply