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Cardinal Robert SarahJohn-Henry Westen/LifeSiteNews

MVOLYÉ, Cameroon (LifeSiteNews) –– Warning that the “Church is dying,” Robert Cardinal Sarah has issued a striking call to action for African Catholics to be the “defenders of the universality of faith” especially at the Synod on Synodality, while also praising them for their rejection of same-sex blessings. 

Speaking in Cameroon as part of a current visit he is making, the cardinal from Guinea praised the Cameroon bishops for their “courageous and prophetic declaration” rejecting Fiducia Supplicans. In “recalling Catholic doctrine on this issue, you have greatly and profoundly served the unity of the Church,” said Sarah. “You have accomplished a work of pastoral charity by recalling the truth.”

The 78-year-old cardinal’s speech was published by veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister, who wrote that Sarah delivered the address on April 9. 

‘Spoken for the whole Church’

The December 21 text from Cameroon’s bishops, responding to Fiducia Supplicans, remains one of the strongest interventions against the Vatican document. They were joined by numerous African episcopal conferences and diocese’s – along with Sarah himself – as nearly the entire continent rejected the Vatican’s document proposing blessings for homosexual “couples.”

READ: Cardinal Sarah strongly rejects Fiducia Supplicans, ‘heresy’ of same-sex ‘blessings’

Such opposition has been labeled by secular media outlets, and crucially by Pope Francis himself, as coming from “small ideological groups,” with Francis adding that the Church in Africa is “a special case” because of its culture.

But Sarah rejected this depiction. “Some in the West wanted to make believe that you acted in the name of an African cultural particularism. It is false and ridiculous to attribute these purposes to you,” he said.

The Cameroon bishops “have spoken for the whole Church ‘in the name of the truth of the Gospel and for the human dignity and salvation of all humanity in Jesus Christ,’” said Sarah.

“This vision of a faith adapted to cultures reveals to what extent relativism divides and corrupts the unity of the Church,” he added, in a thinly veiled attack on the Pope’s own slight towards Africa’s bishops.

‘Dictatorship of relativism’

Though not a participant in the ongoing, multi-year Synod on Synodality, Sarah has not distanced himself from the event, taking the opportunity to warn of dangers he has highlighted in its process. 

This in mind, he called on the African bishops to remember the universal nature of the faith in the Synod’s October 2024 session: 

Dear brother bishops, this is a point that demands to be guarded with great vigilance in view of the upcoming session of the Synod. We know that some, although they say otherwise, are preparing to advocate a program of reforms in it. Among these is the destructive idea that the truth of the faith should be received differentially according to places, cultures and peoples.

Referring to this idea as a “misrepresentation of the dictatorship of relativism,” Sarah warned that it “aims to allow violations of doctrine and morality in certain places under the pretext of cultural adaptation.” 

READ: Cardinal Sarah: ‘Very proud’ of African bishops for rejecting Pope Francis’ homosexual ‘blessings’

The former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship listed a number of the more controversial issues being pushed by differing activists within the Church, outlining them as part of the “dictatorship of relativism.”

It would like to allow female diaconate in Germany, married priests in Belgium, confusion between ordained priesthood and baptismal priesthood in the Amazon. 

He also made another veiled attack on some papal appointees to the Synod, who are in favor of female deacons: “Some recently appointed theological experts do not hide their plans. And they will tell you with false kindness, ‘Rest assured, in Africa, we will not impose this kind of innovation on you. You are not culturally ready.’”

But quoting from the Cameroonian bishops’ December 21 text, Sarah urged them to resist such language since “we, successors of the apostles, were ordained not to promote and defend our cultures, but the universal unity of the faith.”

Africa’s role in the Synod

Renewing his calls for the African bishops to vocally defend the Catholic faith in the Synod, Sarah said that “by a mysterious design of providence it is now precisely the African episcopates who are the defenders of the universality of the faith against the proponents of a fragmented truth, the defenders of the unity of the faith against the proponents of cultural relativism.”

“In the upcoming session of the synod [on Synodality], it is essential that African bishops speak in the name of unity of faith and not in the name of particular cultures,” he said.

Sarah revealed details of the October 2023 session of the Synod, noting that though African prelates “strongly defended the dignity of man and woman created by God,” they were “ignored and scorned by those whose only obsession is to please Western lobbies.”

Anticipating perhaps a fight over the issue of female deacons – which is being raised by certain key voices at the Synod – Sarah attested that “the Church of Africa will soon have to defend the truth of the priesthood and the unity of the faith.”

READ: Top Synod cardinal says ‘females deacons’ are a ‘natural deepening of the Lord’s will’

Seeming to next issue a call to the wider Church, Sarah then urged non-African participants of the Synod to listen to the African voices:

But will people have the courage to listen to them in the next session of the Synod on Synodality? Or should we think that, despite promises to listen and respect them, their warnings will not be heeded, as we already see today?

Once again, he attacked the papally-directed plan of the Synod, suggesting that the style of “conversation in the Spirit” would be “instrumentalized… by those who, under the cover of listening to one another and ‘conversation in the Spirit,’ serve a worldly reform agenda.”

‘Many Western prelates are paralyzed by the idea of opposing the world’

Seemingly on a determined move to speak with a clarity against modern vagueness, Sarah made a veiled attack on Francis’ concept of personal conscience having priority over Church teaching – as proposed in Amoris Laetitia – stating that some people employ Vatican II and “tell us that from now on what is more important for a bishop is the reception of individuals in their subjectivity rather than the proclamation of the content of the revealed message.”

READ: Cardinal Sarah on the crisis in the priesthood: ‘Today we no longer speak of souls’

Drawing from Pope Benedict XVI and from Scripture, Sarah reminded the assembled bishops that the Church is supposed to be “a sign of contradiction” against the world, but that many bishops in the West have taken a weak approach to this practice:

But many Western prelates are paralyzed by the idea of opposing the world. By the world they dream of being loved. They have lost the will to be a sign of contradiction. Perhaps excessive material wealth leads to compromise with world affairs. Poverty is a guarantee of being free for God. 

I think the Church of our time is living the temptation of atheism. Not intellectual atheism, but this subtle and dangerous condition of spirit: fluid and practical atheism. The latter is a dangerous disease even if its first symptoms seem benign.

‘I no longer want to renounce the light of faith’

Denouncing “fluid atheism” as “the final trap of the Tempter, of Satan,” Sarah urged his fellow bishops to take a deliberate and definitive stance against it.

“I want to invite you today to make this decision,” he invited, so that “the lie of atheism will no longer find a place in me. I no longer want to renounce the light of faith, I no longer want, out of convenience, laziness or conformity, to have light and darkness cohabit in me. It is a very simple decision, at once interior and concrete.”

The African cardinal further highlighted to the bishops the link between faith and joy, saying that faith “is the only possible source of peace and gentleness.”

In a striking close to his talk, Sarah attested that – in some sense – the Church “is dying.” He declared: 

The Church is dying, infested with bitterness and partisan spirit, and only the spirit of faith can ground genuine fraternal benevolence. The world is dying, devoured by lies and rivalry, and only the spirit of faith can bring it peace.

Sarah’s call to action to the Cameroon bishops is, as noted, part of a wider trip he is currently making. Always aware of his African heritage, it seems that in recent months Sarah has made a redoubled effort to publicly and vocally pronounce orthodoxy in the African church at various events, thus likely encouraging the bishops he is calling upon to take up the leading role in the Synod.