A Spanish bishop has blasted Cardinal Robert Sarah, one of Pope Francis’ fiercest critics, for living an “easy” Christianity.

Driving the news

Santiago Agrelo, the newly-retired former Archbishop of Tanger in Morocco, told a conference in Madrid Monday that Cardinal Sarah’s opposition to migrants coming to Europe is an “outdated ideology” that does nothing but help people “feel safe and calm”.

“This man would like to go back to Mass in Latin, with his back to the people”, Agrelo denounced.

“What’s the advantage to this mentality?

“Being a Christian that way is easy. I go to Mass every Sunday, I go to heaven… I try not to end up in purgatory, and I can ignore my neighbour who hasn’t got a job, who’s sick…

“It’s a way of being Christian that a lot of people like… [but] I am convinced that the Gospel is otherwise”, declared the bishop.


Six times ultraconservative Cardinal Sarah opposed Pope Francis

Go deeper

In April this year, Sarah said that mass migration is a “new form of slavery”, and that defending migrants is a “false exegesis” of the Gospels.

That’s in sharp contrast to Pope Francis, who has been a tireless defender of the dignity of migrants in his six years on the throne of St. Peter, even going so far as to dedicate a sculpture of refugees in the heart of world Catholicism, in St. Peter’s Square.

But Sarah’s attitude is also in sharp contrast to that of Agrelo, who in his twelve years at the helm of the Tanger diocese earned a reputation for himself as a stalwart protector of displaced people.

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For the record

That focus of Agrelo’s was on display again in Madrid Monday, where he said “migrants are evidence of an unfair, perverse world, shot through by institutionalised violence against the poor”.

“It’s not the same to read the Gospel on land, in our world, in our well-being, as do it on a raft”, Agrelo warned.

“It’s not the same to preach in a cathedral as to preach among the drowning”, he continued.

“Imagine there were good reasons for not letting migrants in. Even so, we’d have to be with them.

“As long as we in the Church don’t have this clear, politicians will continue to fiddle around without an answer to the border tragedy, which isn’t so much a problem for us as it is a tragedy for the migrants”, the archbishop warned.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.