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Letter from Rome: Authenticam ironiam

A tale of two prefects of the Vatican office for Divine Worship

Letter from Rome: Authenticam ironiam

Present and past prefects of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (from left) Archbishop Arthur Roche (appointed May 2021), Cardinal Robert Sarah (2014-21), Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera (2008-14), Cardinal Francis Arinze (2002-08), Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez (1996-2002). 

Life is full of ironies. And life in the Church is no different. In fact, last week we witnessed a bit of irony that stretched right across the Atlantic Ocean, though most people seem to have missed it.

On Oct. 4, as English Archbishop Arthur Roche had just finished giving his first major address as prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) here in Rome, people were gathering in a cathedral some 7,400 miles away in Santiago de Chile for the funeral of his predecessor, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez.

The 71-year-old Roche only got the job last May, while Medina, who would have been 95 in December, held the post from 1996 to 2002.

Even though three other men (all cardinals) served as CDWDS prefect at one time or another during the two decades that separated Medina's tenure from Roche's, the lives and liturgical activities of the gentlemanly Englishman and the gruff Chilean would frequently coincide. Collide is probably the more appropriate word.

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