KENYA: Cardinal Sarah, ‘Pope Benedict centred his life on God’

By Paschal Norbert

NAIROBI, FEBRUARY, 23, 2024 (CISA) Speaking in an animated voice to an eager audience that had settled to hear his words of wisdom, albeit some with wonderment of who he was for his reputation precedes him, Robert Cardinal Sarah spoke of his deep admiration and saintly life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Sarah, the keynote speaker at this year’s Tangaza University Theological Symposium rallied the people to reflect on the life and writings of Pope Benedict XVI for his deep faith and intimate relationship with Christ.

Answering questions from the audience on why he centred most of his presentations on the works of the late pope and with no mention of Pope Francis, Cardinal Sarah, wittingly answered “Pope Benedict centred his life on God.”

In his book, “He Gave Us So Much: A Tribute To Benedict XVI,” published by the Ignatius Press in November 2023, Cardinal Sarah intricately reveals the deep faith and intimate relationship that Pope Benedict had with Christ and also traces the spiritual battles of the late pope who is described as defender for ‘true faith’.

In his book in which he describes Benedict as a ‘portrait of a saint’, he writes “Benedict XVI was a spiritual master… His very precise and profound theological thought is rooted in an authentic mystical and spiritual experience.”

In He Gave Us So Much, Cardinal Sarah traces the spiritual contours of Ratzinger’s life and thoughts, revealing the image of a man on fire with love for God and his neighbour. Benedict XVI was no professor in an ivory tower, but a shepherd and pastor, with the heart of a father. For him, prayer and meditation—communion with Christ—stand at the vibrant centre of all Christian existence.

“The Church and the world continue to grow in deep appreciation for the person and teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Sarah, with his gentle, measured, erudite style, helps us savour the late pontiff even more,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

Cardinal Sarah while also answering a question from the audience, challenged the faithful to reflect on the African liturgy and the supremacy of God by reading widely the teachings of Pope Benedict.

“Liturgy is just for God, where we come to proclaim the glory of God and not glorify our cultures. Inculturation in liturgy is not putting African colour, South American colour or Asian colour. Liturgy is about promoting God and going out to God. It is not about promoting our cultures. I think we must read mostly Pope Benedict,” he said.

“I myself reflect a lot by reading Pope Benedict. Pope Benedict centred his life on God. God must have the first place in Liturgy and our life and this is the work of the bishops because the bishops are the custodians of liturgy in their diocese,’’ he noted.

The Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments maintained “The way we Africans live liturgy is very beautiful, very dynamic but sometimes we need more silence.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop emeritus of Conakry (Guinea), was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in the consistory of November 20, 2010.

On October 7, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and on November 23, 2014, he was appointed Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis. He retired on February 20, 2021.

A vocal advocate for the defence of traditional Catholic teaching, Cardinal Sarah in recent days has been a leading voice in rejecting the controversial Vatican declaration (Fiducia Supplicans) that allows clergy to bless same-sex couples.

He has argued that there is a crisis in the Church and that “the crisis of the Church has entered a new phase: the crisis of the Magisterium.”