Succeeding Cardinal Sarah, Pope Francis Names Archbishop Arthur Roche as Vatican’s New Liturgy Chief

The Vatican announced the English archbishop’s appointment on May 27 along with the nomination of Italian Bishop Vittorio Francesco Viola of Tortona as the congregation’s secretary and Spanish Monsignor Aurelio García Marcías as under-secretary.

Archbishop Arthur Roche at the Vatican press office on Feb. 10, 2015.
Archbishop Arthur Roche at the Vatican press office on Feb. 10, 2015. (photo: Bohumil Petrik/CNA / EWTN)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Arthur Roche on Thursday as the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Archbishop Roche, the current secretary for the congregation, succeeds Cardinal Robert Sarah, who served as its prefect for six years until the pope accepted his retirement in February.

The Vatican announced the English archbishop’s appointment on May 27 along with the nomination of Italian Bishop Vittorio Francesco Viola of Tortona as the congregation’s secretary and Spanish Monsignor Aurelio García Marcías as under-secretary.

Archbishop Roche, 71, has worked in the divine worship congregation since his appointment by Benedict XVI in 2012. 

He was an auxiliary bishop of the English Diocese of Westminster from 2001 to 2002. He served as the bishop of Leeds from 2004 to 2012, with his tenure marked by controversy over church closures. 

He was also president of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) from 2002 to 2012. 

In recent years, Archbishop Roche has acted as a go-between for the pope and Cardinal Sarah in liturgical issues. He was entrusted with writing a commentary to the 2017 motu proprioMagnum principium,” which shifted the responsibility of translating liturgical texts to bishops’ regional and national conferences. The commentary came out along with the publication of the motu proprio.

In 2019, the pope appointed Archbishop Roche as a member of the team to examine appeals on delicta graviora, the gravest crimes dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which include the sexual abuse of minors.

Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Sarah’s resignation on Feb. 20. The Guinean cardinal, who turned 75 in June 2020 and was the most senior African prelate at the Vatican, was appointed head of the liturgy department in 2014.

Italian media reported that the pope asked the Italian Bishop Claudio Maniago to carry out a visitation at the Vatican congregation shortly after Cardinal Sarah’s departure.

The congregation’s newly appointed secretary, Bishop Viola, 55, is a Franciscan. He served as custodian of the Papal Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi and former president of Assisi Caritas before Pope Francis appointed him bishop of Tortona in 2014.

Bishop Viola is also a good friend of Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, who was secretary of the divine worship congregation from 2003 to 2005. 

With this latest appointment, Pope Francis is conferring the title of archbishop upon Viola.

Msgr. Aurelio García Marcías, 56, has worked as the head of the office of the divine worship congregation since 2016. Originally from Pollos, Spain, he was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Valladolid in 1992 and holds a licentiate in philosophy from the University of Salamanca and a Ph.D. in Liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’Anselmo in Rome.

The Vatican also announced on May 27 that modifications to Book VI of the Code of Canon Law will be published with a press conference on June 1.

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]