Everything that I know and am learning about Robert Card. Sarah suggests to me that he may be a Great Man. He is at least what Italians refer to as “un signore”.
First, read his exceptional book. A priest friend of mine recently gave a parish retreat in which he drew on the Cardinal’s book. Not only read this book, buy multiple copies and give them to every priest you can find. You might be interested to know that not long ago the Nuncio to these USA wrote to the bishops with his offer to send a copy of Sarah’s book to all their seminarians. Only one bishop declined. I’ll not publish his name. Let his name be forgotten to the ages. But I digress.
Now that you have read his book.
Here is a piece in the UK’s best Catholic weekly (coincidentally I write a weekly column) The Catholic Herald.
It includes an important point… how properly to pronounce his name!
The unstoppable rise of Cardinal Sarah
The cardinal from a remote African village has become a standard bearer for Catholic orthodoxy in a Church where many things now seem uncertain
is often said that once a new pope has emerged on to the loggia of St Peter’s, the cardinals’ thoughts turn almost immediately to the question of his successor. Pope Francis, although about to turn 80 at the end of this year, does not seem ready to run out of steam. Despite having part of a lung missing, he seems undiminished by a daunting schedule, which in fact he seems to relish. This, along with his obvious pleasure in his role, means that it is difficult to take quite seriously his own speculation that his papacy will be a short one. Nonetheless, nobody should be surprised that there is already much speculation about the identity of his successor.
Among the names being talked about is that of one cardinal elevated to the Sacred College by Benedict XVI, who is increasingly admired by those who wish to consolidate the legacy of the Pope Emeritus.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, relatively little known before the election of Pope Francis, has shown himself since as a key player in Rome. His name – pronounced Sar-AH and not like the English given name – reveals the French linguistic and cultural heritage which this son of the West African savannah imbibed at an early age from the Holy Ghost missionaries. Cardinal Sarah, a second-generation Christian, is a man who combines an authentic claim to come from the ecclesiastical margins so beloved of Pope Francis with a deep grasp of the cultural and theological patrimony which the old continent disseminated along with its political and economic hegemony.
We get a fascinating insight into both of these strains in his personality through his book-length interview with French author Nicholas Diat, published last year in English translation as God or Nothing. After a biographical section, where the cardinal traces his career from the early years in a round, one-room brick hut in rural Guinea which was his family’s only possession to his present position as head of the Vatican’s liturgy dicastery, the book offers reflections on the theological issues which today affect the Church’s internal cohesion as well as the vitality of its missionary outreach.
Both sections are inspiring, revealing Cardinal Sarah as a man of profound and serene contemplative temperament along with dynamic capacities for action and an astonishing courage which tackles controversial questions head-on.
It is difficult to imagine that those who desire to reinvigorate the theological legacy of Benedict XVI could gain so significant a victory in a conclave held now. Every consistory held under Pope Francis – and one is expected later this year – dilutes their strength within the Sacred College.
Cardinal Sarah’s outspokenness on issues such as homosexuality, which has become a shibboleth for Western secular morality, would mean that electing him would be seen as a direct challenge to what appears to be the emerging world order. Not all cardinals are ready for this. [But such a timely testosterone booster is exactly what the College needs.] When he compared Western liberal ideas on sex and gender to Nazi propaganda and Islamist terror, he infuriated liberals, who see him as largely responsible for torpedoing efforts to get the synod to adopt “a more pastoral tone” on homosexuality. But he also probably scared off some conservatives who prefer a less confrontational approach.
One thing we have learnt in the last three years is that there are fewer certainties in the Church than we thought. I certainly won’t be putting money on having a pope from the West African savannah, but only a foolhardy pundit would rule it out. Cardinal Sarah is only nine years younger than Francis, so his eligibility will probably diminish if Francis remains as Pope beyond a few more years. That said, the prospect of a short reign can be seen as an advantage in a fraught situation – this was certainly the case for Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005. Still, whoever emerges as pope from the next conclave, one thing I think we can be sure of is that the voice of Robert Sarah will be listened to in its deliberations.
Read the whole thing there.