Cardinal Sarah appointed head of Vatican congregation for liturgy

Cardinal Sarah, from French Guinea, is first African cardinal to lead department

Pope Francis has named Cardinal Robert Sarah as the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Cardinal Sarah, 69, from French Guinea, is currently president of the pontifical council “Cor Unum”. He will replace Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, nicknamed “Little Ratzinger”, who has been appointed Archbishop of Valencia in Spain.

This is great news!


Awwww yeah.

It sounds like you know more about him. Can you share?

He is conservative, with a leaning toward the traditional as far as the Liturgy (he also spoke at the recent conference on Summorum Pontificum and the traditional mass).

He was also one of the leading conservative voices at the recent Synod, as far as the communion proposal, the discussions about homosexuality, gradualism, etc.

Here’s an interview Card Sarah gave during the Synod:

Cardinal Sarah: Crisis of Today’s Families Is How Concepts of Marriage, Family Have Changed

Says Debate on Eucharist for Divorced, Remarried Has Taken Focus Away From the Challenges Facing Families

Vatican City, October 23, 2014 ( Deborah Castellano Lubov | 3064 hits

While saying that the Holy Father sees that families today have been attacked and feels their pain and brokenness, Cardinal Robert Sarah has reaffirmed that we must strongly and firmly defend the Church teachings given to us, especially Jesus’ words about marriage.

ZENIT: What is the biggest challenge facing the family, in general?

Cardinal Sarah: Thank you for this question. It is an important one since the debate on admission to the Eucharist of divorced and remarried Catholics has taken the focus away from the real important challenges that affect families today. Stemming from the effects of a secular and relativistic society, the crisis of today’s family is in how the concept of marriage and family has changed. The Christian concept of marriage and family consisting of man and woman, married together to bring a family into the world, is no longer a definition that everyone agrees to. The current culture speaks of family without specifying any meaning. Society speaks of family in all its forms – biological, adoptive parent, homosexual – as if [all] these situations could become role models when in reality they are simply a tragic expression of individual problems. We must also consider the social and economic causes that contribute to the weakening of the family.

As we are seeing in the Synod, the problems for the family from other countries differ from those in Africa.

ZENIT: And how are these problems for the family different in Africa? As a native of Guinea, what do you believe are the greatest challenges facing African families?

Cardinal Sarah: African traditional culture is centered on the family. The notion of family is so widespread and deeply rooted that it is considered a mark of African tradition in general. In African culture, family life and values are upheld and enthusiastically promoted and the roles of both man and woman are important in the family; one cannot exist without the other. Both are necessary for the task of raising and educating their children.

However, the African family is being attacked by Western ideologies that try to destroy this traditional relationship between men and women. The “Gender” ideology denies God’s plan for the human family when He created the human persons as male and female. The Gender ideology expresses the desire of men and women of today to free themselves from what is a given fact, from an anthropological, theological and ontological determination that are inscribed in their nature. This Gender model encourages woman to interpret her relationship with man in a conflicting way and for individuals to have a free choice over their sexual orientation, allowing a culture of homosexuality permissible in African culture. Western aid and support have tried to impose these ideologies into African culture. The acceptance of these harmful ideologies is a necessary condition for receiving Western humanitarian and financial aid for Africa. In addition to these challenges, African families also face the influence of pagan cultures, for example polygamy, and the harmful effects of poverty on family life.

ZENIT: Is the Synod addressing these problems?

Cardinal Sarah: During the Synod, there have been recommendations that the Church should affirm and promote her vision of marriage and the family, which the Church has inherited through faith and tradition. We have to listen again to what Jesus said, “In the beginning the Creator made them male and female… For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19: 4-6). We must strongly and firmly defend the teachings given to us in Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium of the Church. It is also necessary for the Church to come up with pastoral approaches taking into account these challenges. I do believe this is what we are aiming for in the Synod.

ZENIT: Do you think concrete positive developments can be made by the next Synod?

Cardinal Sarah: Yes, the main task of the extraordinary Synod was to draw up the situation of today’s family and the challenges that the Church faces in her pastoral ministry to the family that lives in such hostile situation. In view of this, I am happy to note that the Synod of the family in 2015 will be dedicated to the theme of the vocation and mission of the family within the Church and in the contemporary world. We will be listening God’s teaching and the teaching of the Church.

Here’s another article on Card Sarah:

African cardinal: Pressure groups behind push to change Church teaching

"Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, emphasized to CNA Oct. 16 that “what has been published by the media about homosexual unions is an attempt to push the Church (to change) her doctrine.”

“The Church has never judged homosexual persons, but homosexual behavior and homosexual unions are grave deviations of sexuality,” the cardinal, who is from the west African nation of Guinea, added.

Among the criticisms of the synod’s midterm report was the absence of some important statements, a point raised especially by some of the bishops from Africa.

Cardinal Sarah affirmed, however, that “some very important topics are reported in the relatio,” as for example “the Church’s refusal to promote policies linked to gender (theory) in exchange for financial aid.”

“This has been explicitly said in Cardinal Erdo’s relatio, and it is a relevant issue for developing countries as well as for the western countries,” the cardinal stressed.

Cardinal Sarah denounced the “government and some international organizations attempting to suppress the notion of te natural family, based on the man-woman relation; and the Church cannot be silent.”

The relatio read that it is not “acceptable that the pastor’s outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations based on gender ideology.”

Cardinal Sarah said, “there is no Christian family without a glance to Jesus, who Incarnated in a family with a father and a mother.”

This is the reason why, he added, “the reference to Christ is needed, in order to avoid that the Christian vision is reduced to an ideology, and that we are obliged to take stances in contrast with the Magisterium, the history of the Church, and, above all, with the truth of the Gospel.”

The lack of any reference to the Gospel of the Family has been highlighted with concern by all the small groups that discussed the midterm relatio during this week.

Likewise, the small groups have highlighted the need to rewrite the section “Providing for homosexual persons.”

The second English small group, moderated by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, stressed that “the Church must continue to promote the revealed nature of marriage as always between one man and one woman united in lifelong, life-giving, and faithful communion.”

Cardinal Sarah reiterated this, and explained why the Church cannot endorse same-sex unions.

“Based on the Sacred Scriptures, the Tradition of the Church has always stated that ‘the acts of homosexuality are intrinsically disordered, since they are against the natural law, and preclude the gift of life. They cannot be approved in any case’,” Cardinal Sarah maintained, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The cardinal then recalled St. John Paul II, when he questioned whether the push for homosexual unions are “part of a new ideology of evil.”

With this affirmation, Cardinal Sarah filled in the “blanks” of the relatio, which he described as “a working document which partially mirrors the discussion.”

Cardinal Sarah shared that the delivery of this working document “aroused general surprise, since the document had to be finished, polished, and (would) lead to the final draft of a text that must be approved by the synod fathers.”

“Does anyone wants to destabilize the Church and undermine its teaching?” Cardinal Sarah asked.

“Let us pray for those pastors who leave the Lord’s sheep to the wolves of decadent and secularized society, far from God and nature. Sexuality is not a cultural fact, but a natural fact,” he concluded."

Thanks. He does seem to be a good choice and from the heart of the Church. It seems as if, after all the fanfare around the English Translations, the Liturgy has not been getting much attention lately. Hopefully, this will be an infusion of energy.

OTOH, do we want any more meddling in liturgical affairs, other than perhaps adding more saints to the calendar?

I don’t think that there will be much done in the near future regarding the liturgy. The main work on that has been done with the new translations.

The key role for Cardinal Sarah will be in the “Discipline of the Sacraments” part of the dicastary. He will have, by definition, a very key role in any changes in the reception of Holy Communion.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for more change, just orthodox positions on questions that come up and enforcement of the norms already established. From the layman’s point of view, a lot of what the CDW does is answer dubia.



It will also be interesting to see how much attention this appointment will get in the MSM. The transfer of Cardinal Burke certainly got a lot, and was portrayed as a repudiation of the ‘conversative’ view.

This can only be viewed as the exact opposite, the placing of a ‘conservative’ in a position of even greater impact on a lot of the ‘hot topics’ that +Burke ever could have.

Excellent point! I had not thought of that.

While this appointment is encouraging, I think it must be seen in the context of the Curia overhaul as a whole and the new direction and emphasis dicasteries and congregations will have. With that in mind, I Think the CDW will not be doing anything major as the liturgy is de-emphasized and not a large part of the Holy Father’s focus for his pontificate. With that being said, the appointment of Cardinal Sarah is good news for sure, but in context, we must wait to see what other changes occur and how it all integrates together. The fear would be that CDW simply will be marginalized, and His Holiness, has a useful counterpoint in the figurehead of Cardinal Sarah at CDW to use against those who accuse him of being hostile to conservatives. Admittedly, that is total speculation, yet given the current climate…who knows? I do think it will all begin to take more shape over this next year.


*"Then again, the CDW under Francis is not expected to continue along the office’s path of recent decades, which saw the congregation preside over revolutionary shifts (e.g. the sweeping re-translation of the English Missal) alongside maintaining an intense disciplinary oversight of liturgical abuses – whether real or perceived – at the local level. (As a friend once mused – perhaps only half-jokingly – during Cardinal Roger Mahony’s quarter-century as archbishop of Los Angeles, CDW “had a whole wing” dedicated to handling complaints from the US’ largest diocese.)

Instead, the office’s new mission is likely to hew closer to Francis’ own liturgical approach – as one op summarized its principles: “Go by the book. Don’t make a fuss about it. And remember that liturgy’s always a means to an end – not an end in itself.”*

Here’s some commentary on Card Sarah:

We can expect clarity and leadership from Cardinal Sarah

by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith posted Monday, 24 Nov 2014
The Church in Africa has a sharp understanding of the transcendent and sacred

Some good news from the Vatican! We have an African in charge of a major dicastery once more. He is Robert, Cardinal Sarah, who comes from Guinea, and who takes over the Congregation for Divine Worship. This newspaper reports it here and La Stampa has a longer article in English here.

The Congregation for Divine Worship, which deals with the administration of the sacraments and regulates the liturgy has been headed up by an African before now. Cardinal Arinze, a Nigerian, often spoken of as papabile, ran the Congregation from 2002-2008. I once met Cardinal Arinze, who was a down to earth and friendly man, and who, when occasion demanded it could speak clearly and directly to the Church’s critics as well as to those inside the Church who wished to abuse its liturgy.

All the indications are that Cardinal Sarah will be in the same mould as Cardinal Arinze; like his African predecessor, he has long experience of the Roman Curia. He will also bring his own African insights to the matter of the sacred liturgy.

The Church in Africa has a clear and sharp understanding of the division between immanent and transcendent, sacred and profane. Having been to many liturgies in Africa, I have never had the experience I have had in some European countries of attending a Mass that seemed more like a school assembly. This sense of the transcendent and sacred, which permeates the whole of life in Africa, is also seen in an attention to ceremonial that never seems out of place. Recently the Cardinal received the “Summorum Pontificum” pilgrims to Rome, which is most encouraging.

Here is an extract of a sermon made by the Cardinal at an ordination in Candes, France, back in 2011:

“There are no more common moral reference points. We do not know what is wrong and what is right . …] This is serious , it is not to be mistaken ; we have change error into a rule of life . …] If we are afraid to proclaim the truth of the gospel, if we are ashamed to denounce serious deviations in moral matters, if we accommodate ourselves to this world of moral laxity and religious and ethical relativism, if we are afraid vigorously to denounce the abominable laws of this new global ethic, concerning marriage, the family in all its forms, and abortion, laws in total opposition to the laws of nature and of God, and that nations and western culture promote and impose through the mass media and their economic power, then the prophetic words of Ezekiel will fall on us as a serious divine reproach.”

These words indicate that we can expect clarity and leadership from Cardinal Sarah. As he enters into his new office, His Eminence will have the best wishes, and more importantly the prayers, of Catholics around the world. And he will give particular joy, one feels, to all who know the African Church.

“Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum concilium, n. 10). That sounds like an “end”, of some sort, to me…as well as a beginning.



This seems to be an appointment made by the Holy Father in which he is making a clear and direct statement. Apparently Pope Francis has listened for the whispers of the Holy Spirit and heard African tones in his post-Synod reflections. The force with which the Africans responded during the Synod was, for me, the most compelling aspect of the gathering.

Also, this constant need to refer back to Cardinal Burke is disturbing. He served in his post for an appropriate term; in line with those who served before him. Pope Francis has never privately, or publicly, stated that his transfer was any sort of repudiation. Never.

Finally, I believe that both sides of the media share in the blame for the overblown nature of the Cardinal Burke saga. For one, Raymond Arroyo of EWTN, refuses to let the story die a natural death. He is constantly using it to nettle Pope Francis. I don’ t understand it.

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