vatican city November 24, 2014
Everyone was on tenterhooks waiting to see who would take over from Spanish cardinal Antonio Cañizares as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. The answer came at midday today: The man Francis has chosen to lead the dicastery that deals with liturgical affairs of the Church, is Cardinal Robert Sarah, currently President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, one of the Curia bodies that is eventually going to be merged as part of the Curia reform process.
Cardinal Sarah was born to Catholic family on 15 June 1945 in Ourous, Guinea. He was ordained priest on 20 July 1969 in Conakry and studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a licentiate in Scripture at the “Studium Biblicum Franciscanum” in Jerusalem. In 1979, John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Conakry at the young age of 34. He was consecrated bishop by the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who was formerly Nuncio to Senegal. In 1985 he was appointed President of the Guinean Bishops’ Conference.
In October 2001 he moved to Rome after John Paul II nominated him Secretary of Propaganda Fide. Nine years later, on 7 October 2010, Benedict XVI chose him as President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and created him cardinal of the Deaconry of San Giovanni Bosco in Via Tuscolana (Saint John Bosco in Via Tuscolana) in the November Consistory. Sarah is Guinea-Conakry’s first cardinal.
After today’s nomination, the Vatican has an African cardinal leading a Vatican Congregation once again. Nigerian cardinal Francis Arrinze was Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 2002 to 2008, while Cardinal Bernardin Gantin from Benin headed the Congregation for Bishops from 1984 to 1998.
“The Lord has given me a gift I do not deserve and it is also a call to love the Lord even more on the occasion of the Consistory; it is also a call to love the Lord more and to die for Him, for the Gospel, for the salvation of the world… I would like to thank the Holy Father for deciding to grant me this honour. However, I also see this call as having come from God; it is a call to me to lead a more priestly and Christian life. I think today’s world needs God’s people, people who live their lives in such a way that they represent God’s physical presence in the world.”
Sarah is known for his deep spirituality: In nominating him head of the Church’s liturgical dicastery, Francis has chosen a pastor with 22 years of experience leading a diocese. In recent years the new Prefect for Worship attracted a great deal of media attention after he reminded the world that Africa was exploited by international powers and after a homily he pronounced in 2011 during an ordination ceremony for priests and deacons at the Communauté Saint-Martin in Candes.