In a long-awaited decision, Pope Francis has tapped a conservative African cardinal, Robert Sarah of Guinea, as head of the Vatican’s liturgical office. This is the second nomination of a conservative African to an influential position in less than a week.
On November 21, Francis added Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, the outspoken South African who vocally opposed a hastily written and ambiguous interim document at the recent Vatican marriage summit, as Delegate President to the concluding marriage meeting next October.
Now Francis has named Cardinal Robert Sarah as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, one of the most important positions in the Vatican. Sarah has an impressive résumé, and most recently has headed up the Vatican’s international charities office, called Cor Unum. In this role, Sarah insisted on the Catholic identity of Church charities, saying that if charity is separated from the Church’s broader evangelizing mission, it is simply philanthropy.
The post as Vatican liturgical czar has been vacant since the Pope named the former Prefect, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, as bishop of Valencia last August. Since then, speculation has raged among traditionally minded Catholics that Francis might name a more progressive bishop to the post. Yesterday’s appointment has put those worries to rest.
Sarah was part of the African coalition critical of attempts to foist a homosexual agenda on the October summit on marriage. At the time he said 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,” Sarah said, “but homosexual behavior and homosexual unions are grave deviations of sexuality.” He also underscored the importance of the Church’s refusal to promote policies linked to gender theory in exchange for financial aid.
It was after Sarah’s strong comments and others by African bishops that the progressive German Cardinal Walter Kasper came out saying that the Africans shouldn’t be dictating the talking points of the synod.