Conservative African cardinal who clashed with pope leaves post

Pope removes conservative African cardinal who warned Islam would ‘invade the world’ after clash with Vatican

  • Robert Sarah was a favourite among conservatives in the Catholic Church 
  • Some even hoped he could have succeeded Pope Francis as Pontiff eventually
  • He frequently clashed with Pope Francis and resigned in accordance with law 

A top Vaticn cardinal who some beieved could have succeeded the Pope has resigned from his post after clashing with the Church.  

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation from Robert Sarah, a hero to many conservatives who often clashed with the pontiff on theological matters.

The African cardinal, who is from Guinea, held various Vatican positions in the last 20 years, the latest as head of the department that oversees matters of worship and sacraments.

He caused controversey in 2019 after claiming Islam ‘would invade the world’ if the Catholic Church did not intervene on mass migration.  

Sarah had submitted his resignation in June last year when he turned 75, as Church law requires of all bishops, but the pope often allows Vatican officials to remain in their posts longer. 

The Vatican announced on Saturday that he was stepping down.

Robert Sarah was a favourite of conservatives in the Church who put him on their wish list to one day succeed Francis as pontiff

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation, which was originally sent in June last year, in accordance with Church law which requires of all bishops. Although, the pope can allow some people to remain in their posts for longer

In his latest position, which he held since 2014, Sarah dragged his feet in implementing changes wanted by Francis, such as allowing women to be among those taking part in Holy Thursday services.

Conservatives in the Church often put Sarah on their wish list to one day succeed Francis as pontiff. 

But most observers saw that possibility as extremely remote because Sarah was seen as highly divisive and would not have wide support among fellow cardinals.

Apart from openly disagreeing with Francis on a number of theological issues, Sarah was involved in an embarrassing episode last year over a book in defence of priestly celibacy that he said was jointly written with former Pope Benedict.

Just days before its publication, Benedict said he wanted his name removed from the cover because he had made only a minor contribution.

Sarah publicly contested Benedict’s version but agreed that in future editions, Benedict would be named as a contributor and not co-author.

Who is Cardinal Robert Sarah?

Robert Sarah was born in Guinea in 1945 and turned 75 on June 15 last year.

He was ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church on July 20, 1969 and was appointed Archbishop of Conakry by John Paull II in 1979 at 34-yeard-old.

In 2001 he was named secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation Peoples and he was appointed as president of the Pontifical Council in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.

It was the same year he was created Cardinal with the title of the Diaconia of St. John Bosco in Via Tuscolana, Rome.

Pope Francis appointed him Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2014.

He also participated in the conclave that elected Pope Francis in 2013. 

On migration

Sarah made controversial remarks in 2019 when he said ‘Islam would invade the world’ if the Catholic Church did not act on mass migration.

‘It is a false exegesis to use the Word of God to promote migration. God never wanted these rifts,’ Cardinal Robert Sarah said.

‘All migrants who arrive in Europe are penniless, without work, without dignity…This is what the Church wants?’ he asked.

‘The Church can not cooperate with this new form of slavery that has become mass migration.’

‘If the West continues in this fatal way, there is a great risk that, due to a lack of birth, it will disappear, invaded by foreigners, just as Rome has been invaded by barbarians,’ he added.

‘My country is predominantly Muslim. I think I know what reality I’m talking about.’

 This put him at odds with Pope Francis who emphasised westerners need to take in more migrants. 

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