Pope Francis Removes Conservative African Cardinal From Vatican Post
Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea is often mentioned as a possible future pontiff
By Francis X. Rocca
Updated Feb. 20, 2021 8:29 am ET
ROME—Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Robert Sarah as head of the Vatican’s office for liturgy, removing an outspoken conservative and possible future pope from the ranks of Vatican leadership.
The Holy See Press Office announced Saturday that Cardinal Sarah had stepped down. No successor has been named.
The cardinal submitted his resignation as required by church law when he turned 75 on June 15 of last year. But the pope frequently lets cardinals serve two or three years past that age, though not past 80. Last June, the cardinal wrote on Twitter: “For my part, I am happy to continue my work” at the Vatican.
In accepting Cardinal Sarah’s resignation, the pope has removed a subordinate out of step with his approach to liturgy, homosexuality and relations with the Muslim world. The cardinal is a hero to many conservative Catholics, some of whom see him as a future pontiff. He will still be able to vote in a conclave to elect a pope until he turns 80.
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
PUBLISHED: 16:38 GMT, 20 February 2021 | UPDATED: 20:58 GMT, 20 February 2021
A top Vatican cardinal who had been touted by many to succeed as the next pontiff, 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 controversy 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.
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.