Cardinal Robert Sarah turned 75, the canonical age of retirement, in June 2020, and in line with the canon law rules he offered his resignation from the post of prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which has been accepted by Pope Francis. Following his step down the Guinean Cardinal communicated it on his Twitter account, “I remain in the hands of God. The only rock is Christ. We will meet again soon in Rome and other places.”
Cardinal Sarah is well known for his conservative views, as well as for his outspoken and firm opinions. At the 2015 Synod on the Family, the Guinean Church leader marked gender ideology and the Islamic fanaticism as the two greatest threats of our time, since they are bombarding the basis of mankind, notably, the family itself. “What the Nazi fascism and the communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual, abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today.” – voiced the Cardinal. In his book “From the Depths of Our Hearts”, published in 2020, he emphasized the importance of priestly celibacy, describing the possibility of ordaining married men as “a pastoral catastrophe, an ecclesiological confusion and an obscuring of the understanding of the priesthood.” Cardinal Sarah is of the opinion that abolition of the priestly celibacy would not solve at all the vocation crisis. “The experience of the lack of pastors in the Protestant communities, who allow the marriage of his ministers of worship, proves exactly the opposite. The vocation crisis is the crisis of faith! Where the Gospel is announced and lived in all its demands, vocations are not lacking.” – he said.
Robert Sarah was born in 1945 in Ouros, Guinea to an animist tribal family. He was two years old when a missionary priest baptised him, then at the age of eleven he announced to dedicate his entire life to the service of God. His relatives were very sceptical, noting that “a black boy can never be a priest of the Catholic Church.” However, he left his village with a single small bag, and that was the beginning of a thrilling life path: poverty, being far away from the family, then came the war of independence that ravaged his country, topped by the communist dictatorship and the military persecution that came with it. He continued his studies in several continents and countries, including Ivory Coast, France, Guinea, Senegal, Rome and Jerusalem. Robert Sarah was ordained priest on 20 July 1969 for the Diocese of Conakry. Ten years later Saint Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Conakry at the age of 34, making him the youngest bishop of the Catholic Church. He managed to successfully preserve the independence of his Church even under Sékou Touré’s dictatorship, moreover many times opposed and resisted the state dictatorship, for which was put on death-list, however has never been arrested.
Primary vocation: leading God to the people
From 2001 he served as secretary to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In 2010 he was appointed President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and was created Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on 20 November the same year. On 23 November 2014 Pope Francis nominated him Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Guinean Cardinal speaks French, Italian and English fluently and is a prominent figure of the Roman Curia. He is highly committed to the traditional Catholic teachings, represents and supports the protection of sexual morality, the right to life, and strongly condemns the Islamic radicalism. He regularly takes a stand on issues affecting the world and the Church. Cardinal Sarah made criticism on the Church’s policy that goes into details of political-social issues, meanwhile failing to deal with Her primary vocation of leading God to people. His outspoken views have led the press to some critics, portraying him as an opponent of Pope Francis, although it was not meant to be. The Church carries out an “over horizontal” pastoral practice. “How could we expect people to think of God while the Church herself is constantly dealing with social issues?” – stated the Cardinal.
Crisis of identity
Robert Sarah often talks about the European crisis, noting that “atheism is rooted in the exaggerated individualism of the European mankind. The individual is considered divinity, is longing for more autonomy and an absolute independence, while tends to forget God.” Once, giving a lecture on the issue, he declared - “Those who deny the values of their own tradition, culture and religion, they are condemned to destruction, since they lose their motivation, their energy and no longer want to fight to defend their own identity.”
Robert Sarah, in an interview given to the Aleteia news portal, elaborated his belief that actually it is not the Church, but rather we ourselves are in crisis. Young people who are looking for the truth and the good, are often left alone. “In today’s world lonesome people’s faith, Christian values, and hope are quickly shattered by sharks.” The Church -he added- should return to people the ability of gazing at Christ. He also talked about the bishop’s responsibility, pointing out: “If the shepherd abandons the flock, the wolves take it over. Then the shepherd will have to answer to God, to the Pastor of the Pastors. Fear is the great weakness of the Church today. This is why the Church no longer dares to stand out and go against the grain to show the world the way.”
The one and only thing that matters: to seek and find God
Cardinal Sarah has received broad press coverage on issues that he was to develop a certain conservative powerful circle in opposition to Pope Francis. In an interview given in March 2021 to the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, the Cardinal rejected all claims and speculations that he and Pope Francis would be enemies. He called all these rumours a complete nonsense in his first interview since his resignation. He also talked about his sufferings the winds and storms within the Church caused him, stating: “I do not believe that the struggle between the progressives and conservatives has any meaning in the Church. These categories are political and ideological, and the Church is not a field of political struggles. The only thing that matters is to seek God even more deeply, to meet him and humbly kneel down to adore Him.”
Source: ncregister.com, ujkonyvpiac.hu, moly.hu, magyarkurir.hu, aleteia, cna.com, cruxnow, katolikus.ma