Cardinal Sarah Remains Head of Vatican Liturgy Department After 75th Birthday

Cardinal Sarah celebrated his 75th birthday on June 15.

Cardinal Robert Sarah.
Cardinal Robert Sarah. (photo: Edward Pentin/National Catholic Register)

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Robert Sarah said Wednesday that he would continue to serve as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship beyond his 75th birthday.

Bishops are required to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75. The Guinean cardinal celebrated his 75th birthday Monday, June 15. 

In a June 17 post on his official Twitter account, Sarah wrote: “Thank you for the messages that have reached me from around the world on the occasion of my birthday. Let us continue the path with Christ. For my part, I am happy to continue my work within the Congregation for Divine Worship. Always pray for the pope.”

ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian language partner agency, reported June 18 that Pope Francis had asked Cardinal Sarah to remain as prefect of the liturgy department donec aliter provideatur, or “until further provision is made.”

Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Sarah, the most senior African prelate at the Vatican, prefect of the liturgy department in November 2014. He had previously served as the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Cardinal Sarah has written a trilogy of books read widely throughout the Catholic world: “God or Nothing” (2015), “The Power of Silence” (2016), and “The Day Is Now Far Spent” (2019).

During his tenure at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments he has built a reputation for outspoken commentary on the Church and the world. 

In 2016, he encouraged priests to celebrate Mass facing east, prompting a Vatican spokesman to say that his words had been “misinterpreted.”

In January this year he was at the center of a controversy over the presentation of a book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” as a co-authored work by himself and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. 

Meanwhile, in an April interview with the French magazine Valeurs actuelles, Cardinal Sarah said that the sick and dying cannot be denied the sacramental assistance of a priest during the coronavirus pandemic. 

He said: “Priests must do everything they can to remain close to the faithful. They must do everything in their power to assist the dying, without complicating the task of the caretakers and the civil authorities.”

“But no one,” he continued, “has the right to deprive a sick or dying person of the spiritual assistance of a priest. It is an absolute and inalienable right.”

In May, Cardinal Sarah insisted he was wrongly included as a signatory on a controversial open letter arguing that forces could exploit the pandemic in order to usher in a one-world government.