After Francis (2)

June 02, 2022
Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio community

For several months, Pope Francis has been exhibiting serious difficulties getting around. On April 30, 2022, when receiving pilgrims from Slovakia, he declared that his leg was “not good,” even adding: “it does not work.” He said his doctor told him not to walk.

This worrying state of health made Roman observers increasingly wonder about the future pope. The first part reported the words of a well-informed prelate, Msgr. Nicola Bux. This second part describes Pope Francis’s attitude in anticipating his successor.

Will the priorities of the next pontificate ideally as described by Msgr. Bux be those of the future pope? Several Vaticanists doubt it, because Francis is working on his succession, and is seeking to promote the election of a pope in his image and likeness.

On the MondayVatican website on February 7, Andrea Gagliarducci bluntly affirmed what everyone says in a low voice: “It is no mystery that one thinks of the succession of a pope when the Pope is still in office. And it is not even a mystery that, after the operation of July 4, [in 2021 for removal of part of the colon. Ed.] talk on  about a possible succession of Pope Francis have become more frequent.”

“Pope Francis did not appreciate it. Returning from Slovakia, he made it known that some considered him already dead. Since then, the pope has become even more unpredictable. And that has done nothing but multiply the talks, the meetings, the dialogues on the possible succession.”

Then the journalist described the atmosphere that currently reigns in the Vatican because “Pope Francis wants to manage everything personally. His strategy is to take power away from others. And so, no one has control.”

“The particular secretaries do not have it, destined to be replaced and in any case unaware of the pope’s many appointments. The dicastery heads do not have it, uncertain about the Pope’s decisions, and destined not to remain for more than two five-year terms. Not even the local bishops have it, forced to navigate precariously, hoping not to make serious mistakes.”

“In practice, everyone is looking for their own space, aware that an error could result in a reprimand by the pope, who has never been afraid of letting go those he has considered below par.”

It is in this context of general fear, according to Andrea Gagliarducci, that the future succession must be considered. The pope “is trying to ensure the succession with a series of targeted appointments. It will probably be in this way that he will ‘design’ the college of cardinals in the next consistory, which should not take place before October, barring surprises.”

“There is talk of creating at least fifteen cardinals, of which at least ten are electors, for what will be the first consistory after the operation for Pope Francis. With an overwhelming majority of cardinals in his image and likeness, the pope hopes they will choose someone who will follow the line of his pontificate.”

But the journalist warned: “It is not a given, however, that it will be a Francis II. It could also be a Paul VII, a pope from Central Europe with outstanding competence in canon law, who can thus fix some juridical gaps in this pontificate. Everything is uncertain.”

“What comes to mind is that this uncertainty is intentional so that no one can organize with a view for a conclave. Everything must be uncertain, because it must be clear that Pope Francis is the only one who has managed power.”

At the end, the Vaticanist wonders: “But which Church will Pope Francis leave? Looking closely, he will leave a Church to be rebuilt, afraid even of taking initiatives, holding back men and evangelization. The result will be a Church that is perhaps too nice and not very empathetic. A Church that needs to advertise itself instead of evangelizing.”

And to conclude: “These statements may seem strong. However, I think it is a eventuality not to be underestimated. Is this what Pope Francis wants? We shall see.”

Other Vaticanists venture to name names. Thus Sandro Magister, on his blog Settimo Cielo of February 3, indicated who is the candidate of the Sant'Egidio Community, or rather the two candidates, the official (ecclesiastical) and the unofficial (lay):

“It is no mystery that the Community is aiming to have elected as pope in the future conclave Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the current Archbishop of Bologna and its leading member from the beginning. Just as it does not escape those in the know that the Church’s acting director, if Zuppi were elected pope, would be before and more than him Andrea Riccardi, the all-powerful founder and head of the Community.”

And the Roman Vaticanist observes: “It is thought that Zuppi and Riccardi want to continue the journey begun by Francis in a more orderly form and without the character imbalances that damage the current pontificate. But it may be that this very continuity between them and Bergoglio, given the growing and widespread dissatisfaction over how the Church is governed today, could topple their fortunes at the conclave.”