A few hours before Cardinal Robert Sarah delivers his public lecture at St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto, I meet him for an interview at the nearby rectory.

Holding a plain wooden rosary in both of his hands, the cardinal sits a few feet from me. To my immediate left, a framed copy of Holbein’s portrait of Thomas More hangs on the wall. Between the setting and his meditative answers to my questions, I feel more like a retreatent than a reporter. The recent media controversies surrounding him seem far away as we discuss aspects of the

Christian life.

Soft-spoken and often repeating phrases for emphasis, the Vatican prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship is completely comfortable taking long pauses to carefully form his answers. Nevertheless, he speaks directly and with conviction, matching the tone of his writing. Throughout the course of our conversation, I notice how expressive his eyes are. They are often the first to speak. Possessing a gentle intensity, he has a face that photos don’t fully capture.

As we cover topics ranging from his visit to Toronto to the role of Africa in the Universal Church, he often moves through a few beads of his rosary. His comments are variations of one central theme: friendship with God.

In The Power of Silence, Cardinal Sarah writes at length about his affection for the rosary. He describes it as the “silent” and “mysteriously effective hidden instrument” that has had “the last word” over the evils of the 20th century and “obtained the unthinkable” throughout history. Talking to him is not unlike following the narratives and rhythms of the rosary: as with its mysteries he ponders how the events of Christ’s life transform our sense of history, identity and purpose.

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