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Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea as head of the Vatican’s liturgy department, removing a conservative who was seen as an opponent of the pontiff’s vision for the church.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Holy See Press Office announced that Sarah stepped down from his leadership position. The Vatican did not provide any reason for his resignation or name a successor.
Sarah submitted his resignation as required by church law last June when he turned 75. But cardinals are often allowed to remain in their posts for a few years longer, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Shortly after the announcement, Sarah posted a statement on Twitter in which he alluded to his retirement age. “I am in God’s hands. The only rock is Christ. We will meet again very soon in Rome and elsewhere,” he wrote in French.
Aujourd’hui, le pape a accepté la renonciation de ma charge de Préfet de la Congrégation pour le Culte Divin après mon soixante-quinzième anniversaire. Je suis entre les mains de Dieu. Le seul roc, c’est le Christ. Nous nous retrouverons très vite à Rome et ailleurs. +RS pic.twitter.com/4sTLa4JjWB
— Cardinal R. Sarah (@Card_R_Sarah) February 20, 2021
By accepting the cardinal’s resignation, Pope Francis ousted a proponent of more traditional Catholic liturgy. Sarah is considered a staunch conservative, and has been seen as a possible future pontiff.
In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Sarah as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. However, as the Journal notes, it became clear that the African cardinal and the pope shared very different visions on theological matters, including on topics such as homosexuality and the church’s relationship with the Muslim world.
Last year, the cardinal caused controversy after co-writing a book in which he defended the “necessity” of celibacy in the priesthood. His co-author, retired Pope Benedict XVI, later put distance between himself and the book and asked for his name to be taken off as co-author.