Pope Francis has appointed Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah to lead the Congregation for Divine Worship, which deals with the Church’s liturgical affairs, the Vatican announced today.
Speculation was rife in the run-up to today’s announcement as the post had been vacant for three months. Francis moved the previous prefect of the dicastery, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, back to Spain to lead the archdiocese of Valencia.
Sarah, who some observers thought could be elected pope in last year’s conclave, is the second African prelate to head the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments after Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who ran it from 2002 to 2008.
Robert Sarah was ordained archbishop of Conakry at the age of 34, making him the youngest bishop in the world and called "the baby bishop" by St John Paul II. In 2001 John Paul II appointed him no. 2 at the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. He was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 and the following year took over the Pontifical charitable office Cor Unum, which Pope Francis is believed to be considering merging with the Justice and Peace Office.
Last month Sarah and Australian Cardinal George Pell were expected to attend a Mass connected to a pilgrimage of Tridentine rite supporters but reportedly cancelled at the last minute.
Cardinal Sarah told journalists that the recent Synod on the Family had focused too much on “the debate on admission to the Eucharist of divorced and remarried Catholics” at the expense of “the real important challenges that affect families today”.
He told the news agency Zenit that, 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”.
He told another news agency, CNA: “Homosexual behaviour and homosexual unions are grave deviations of sexuality.”
Sarah comes from the minority Coniaguis ethnic group who live on the northern border of Guinea with Senegal. He was ordained priest during the dictatorship of Marxist President Ahmed Sékou Touré, and has consistently spoken out for human rights, earning him the respect of Guinea’s Muslim majority. His predecessor in Conkary, Archbishop Raymond-Marie Tchidimbo, was imprisoned for nine years by the regime.
Above: On the first anniversary of Haiti's devasting 2010 earthquake Cardinal Sarah celebrated Mass in the ruins of Port-au-Prince cathedral. Photo: CNS