During the meeting he had with his fellow Jesuits in Slovakia on September 12, 2021, Pope Francis denounced the suspicious behavior of certain prelates, during and after his surgery on July 4. “They were preparing for the conclave,” he said.
The revelation of some sort of conspiracy to prepare for his succession has aroused the astonishment of several commentators, including that of Giovanni Butta, which was reported on the Aldo Maria Valli website on September 28. The surprise did not come so much from the content of this revelation as from who made it.
We remember, in fact, that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself benefited from the efficient and discreet support of progressive prelates for his election.
On this point, we can refer to the Confession of a Cardinal [Jean-Claude Lattès, 2007] where, anonymously, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini (1923-2019) admits that meetings were held in order to prepare for the succession of Benedict XVI from the start of his pontificate.
Also, one can consult the biography of Cardinal Godfried Danneels (1933-2019), [Karim Schelkens Jurgen Mettepenningen Godfried Danneels, Polis éd., Antwerp, 2015] where the Belgian prelate designates under the name of “St. Gallen Mafia” the group of prelates who met, at the initiative of Cardinal Silvestrini, in that Swiss city.
A month after this revelation by the Pope about a hypothetical “plot,” the journalist Francesco Boezi readily admits, in an article in Il Giornale of October 17, that the factions within the College of Cardinals are already organizing themselves “in order to not to be taken by surprise when the sede vacante [the Vacanct See] begins.”
The Italian journalist describes an assembly of electors currently divided into three main streams: “Bergoglian,” and “progressive” cardinals who are inclined to continue the reform of the Church; the “Ratzingerians,” and “conservatives” eager to refocus the Church; and the “great center” which brings together the high prelates oscillating between the two factions.
Francesco Boezi notes that the “Ratzingerians” can now be counted “on the fingers of one hand.” This has caused him to conclude that the election of a new conservatively-inclined pope is “completely unlikely.”
Assuming the large preeminence of the progressive clan, the journalist asserts that there is a “string of names for the papacy,” including that of the Filipino cardinal Antonio Tagle and the German Reinhard Marx.
But the “Ratzingerians,” feeling unable to place one of their favorites on Peter's seat, could opt for another solution, which would be closer to a “second best.” In order to avoid the election of an overly progressive pontiff, they could ally themselves with the “great center,” which could determine the choice of a “moderate” pope.