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ROME, October 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis will personally replace Cardinal Robert Sarah at the inauguration of the academic year in the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Rome in a last minute change.

As the National Catholic Register reports, Pope Francis will surprisingly attend the opening of the academic year 2016/17 on October 27 instead of Card. Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who was originally picked by the institute to give the Lectio Magistralis.

This news follows recent nominations of the Institute’s new grand chancellor and president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who is also the new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. His appointment is considered controversial. The new president will be the Milanese priest, Mons. Pierangeli Sequeri.

The John Paul II Institute took great initiative in preparation for and during the aftermath of the recent Synod of Bishops on the family. They have always tried to uphold John Paul II’s legacy of taking a clear stance on moral issues, such as the question of access to Communion for “re-married” divorced Catholics. Despite their clear expertise on the issue under discussion at the Synod, none of their professors were invited as consultants to the first, Extraordinary Synod on the family, in 2014.

Cardinal Robert Sarah recently made headlines by drawing throngs of people to the presentation of his most recent book, The Force of Silence, in the French Institute of Rome. Earlier this year, Cardinal Sarah issued a high-profile call for clergy to celebrate Mass oriented toward the East, as the Church has done traditionally, after which he was silenced by the Vatican. Other tensions became clear in February when the Vatican announced that women could be chosen for the ceremony of washing the feet on Holy Thursday. This decree was published by Pope Francis himself – not by the congregation responsible for liturgy, led by Sarah – and Cardinal Sarah promptly responded in public statements clarifying that the decree’s introduction of women was not compulsory.

Merely the title of Cardinal Sarah’s new book seems to be a statement that could be read as a challenge to Pope Francis’ general style of governance of the Church.

The news about Pope Francis assuming Cardinal Sarah’s place could be interpreted as a blow to the Cardinal of Guinea to silence him in the public sphere. On the other hand, the Pope’s presence could be explained merely as recognition of the 35th anniversary of the Institute, to be celebrated on November 22.

General concern equally arose with the new appointment of the Institute’s president, Mons. Pierangelo Sequeri. Sequeri was consultor for both the extraordinary and ordinary Synod of Bishops and took part in the working groups who helped draft Amoris Laetitia. It seems that the implementation of such documents would be in his field of interest. Yet only time and further developments in the Institute will tell if the nominations are in contrast to its mission.  

For further reading, see: Stephan Kampowski, professor of the Institute, co-author of the book, The Gospel of the Family – Going beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the debate on Marriage.