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September 26, 2021
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The War Against Cardinal Sarah | First Things

This article published in 2017 provides some opposite narrative background to Pope Francis’ acceptance of the resignation of Africa’s Cardinal Sarah. What it interprets as a conspiratorial design to edge him out from the next conclave, may as well be read as early enough indications that Cardinal Sarah was aligned against the new direction of Pope Francis’ papacy. Between 2017 and 2021 was enough time for him to have matured a conscious choice of where to stand. Evidently he could not be persuaded to embrace the new ideology driving the current papacy that empowered him with a very important responsibility. His choice could be understood as obedience to the integrity of personal conscience. It may as well, as widely perceived, be in loyalty to the alternative conservative ideology set in place by Pope Benedict, way back as Cardinal Ratzinger, who made him a cardinal. But only Cardinal Sarah knows which is the truth. The complex reality of the situation, which is symptomatic of parallel situations faced by African church leaders in their various international denominational alliances, is that the argument of this article can be turned against itself. Was Cardinal Sarah manipulated by the lobby of the circle around Pope Benedict, in all the controversial instances cited, to weaken the new direction of Pope Francis’ papacy from inside? African christian leaders of all denominations must commit to the interests of the African christians they represent, rather than continually playing the pawn in the hands of their European colleagues who cover their ideological interests under the wildcard of a “universal, globally-organized christian faith tradition”. At last, Cardinal Sarah lost an important position of service where his African contribution could help move things forward; while Pope Benedict’s integrity, as not in open opposition to Pope Francis, is saved and intact.

Now that Cardinal Gerhard Müller has been removed from his post at the Vatican, the main target of the circle around Pope Francis is Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Their latest coup is the release of a letter of “correction” aimed at Cardinal Sarah and signed by Francis. Published on Sunday, the letter was celebrated as a just humiliation of the cardinal and accompanied by calls for his resignation.

Earlier this fall, Pope Francis issued Magnum Principium, a document granting bishops’ conferences greater latitude to make their own translations of sacred texts and liturgy. Cardinal Sarah replied with a letter that offered a narrow reading of the document, preserving as much as possible the power of Rome to guard against mistranslations (such as the desire of German bishops to translate pro multis as “for all,” rather than as the correct “for many”). Pope Francis has now publicly declared that Sarah is wrong, and that Magnum Principium has indeed reduced Rome’s power of oversight.

This is a calculated humiliation of Cardinal Sarah—and not only of him. Of Pope Benedict XVI, too, since he is the great champion of the “reform of the reform,” an attempt to correct the liturgical innovations that followed the Second Vatican Council. And of St. John Paul II, who in 2001 issued the document Liturgiam Authenticam, which Francis has sought to gut with Magnum Principium.

Cardinal Sarah suffered a similar humiliation a little over a year ago, after he urged bishops and priests to celebrate the Mass ad orientem, facing east, according to the ancient practice of the Church. This was another effort to advance “reform the reform.” The cardinal stated that he had talked with the pope about the topic, and that the pope had given his assent to the proposal. If so, the Vatican made no acknowledgment of this fact in its note of blunt denial.

Read the full article titled, The War Against Cardinal Sarah | First Things

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