Pope Francis on May 27 named a relatively low-profile British prelate to replace Cardinal Robert Sarah as the leader of the Vatican office charged with overseeing most of the global Catholic Church’s liturgical rites.
Archbishop Arthur Roche, who had served as the No. 2 official at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since 2012, is now the office’s prefect.
A former head of the Diocese of Leeds, England, Roche is known in Rome as something of a quiet voice, not often stepping into the limelight except for official press conferences or announcements.
Unlike his predecessor Sarah, who was often seen as an opponent of Francis’ vision for the global church, Roche is not known to maintain a Twitter account, nor to often given interviews.
Roche had been leading the Vatican office on an interim basis since February, when the pope accepted Sarah’s resignation. Sarah had turned 75, the traditional retirement age for bishops, in June 2020.
Beyond Roche, Francis also appointed new No. 2 and No. 3 officials for the congregation. Bishop Vittorio Viola, until now the head of the Italian Diocese of Tortona, north of Genoa, will serve as secretary. Msgr. Aurelio Marcias, formerly a department head at the office, will now serve as its under-secretary.
After Sarah’s resignation, Francis had taken the unusual step of asking that an outside expert consult with the Vatican office’s staff to review its procedures and consider what might be needed in a new prefect. In a March interview with Catholic News Service, Roche compared the consultation process to how a bishop might consult with a parish before appointing a new pastor.
Roche was brought to Rome from Leeds in 2012 by retired Pope Benedict XVI. He has previously been an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, the Catholic Church’s archdiocese in London, and a general secretary of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.
You can watch a Salt + Light interview with Archbishop Roche from 2015, discussing the new translation of the missal, below.