Conclave Rehearsals. The Next Pope Will Take His Name From Sant’Egidio
Two recent acts of Pope Francis have called attention back to the conclave that will elect his successor. And to the names of the candidates.
The first act, made known on November 25 by the director of the Vatican press office, is the pope’s acceptance of the resignation of his personal secretary, the Argentine Fabián Pedacchio Leániz, 55, since 2007 an official of the congregation for bishops.
Pedacchio, Francis’s personal secretary since 2013, will go back to working full-time at the congregation, where moreover he had continued to perform a prominent role precisely because of his proximity to the pope, where it is foreseeable that in the near future he will move up a level, with ordination as bishop.
That a pope would preventively shield his personal secretary from the repercussions of succession is a classic of the Vatican chronicles, to which Jorge Mario Bergoglio has decided to adhere without hesitation.
The second act, made public on Sunday December 8, is the calling to Rome as the new prefect of the congregation for the evangelization of peoples of Filipino cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, 62, archbishop of Manila since 2011 and since 2015 president of Caritas Internationalis.
To make room for him at the head of “Propaganda Fide,” Francis brusquely pulled out of there his predecessor, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, in spite of the fact that he was not out of time in terms of his age, at 73, or of the duration of his position, which was to end in 2021.
To Filoni the pope has given the position, more honorary than substantial, of Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Francis’s lack of esteem for him could be attributed both to the cardinal’s proximity to the Neocatechumenal Way, a movement to which the pope is visibly allergic, and to the reservations that Filoni expressed, in two interviews with “L’Osservatore Romano” and with Vatican News, concerning the secret accord ratified on September 22 2018 between the Holy See and China, strongly backed by the pope.
To these acts must also be added, still against the backdrop of a future conclave, Francis’s growing annoyance with the resistance opposed by the current president of the Italian episcopal conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, to the idea – cherished instead by the pope – of convening a synod of the Church of Italy.
The latest sign of this annoyance is in the words Francis spoke off the cuff on December 6 to the Jesuits of the magazine “Aggiornamenti Sociali.” In thanking in particular the elderly Father Bartolomeo Sorge, the pope said he had “read a short time ago something of a clarity that made tremble, I do not say Italian politics, but certainly at least the Italian Church.”
To what the pope was referring was not immediately clear. But to unravel the mystery came a tweet a few minutes later from Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica” and close to Bergoglio, who referenced the lead article of the September 21 2019 issue of his magazine, written by Sorge and entitled: “A ‘probable’ Synod of the Italian Church? From the first ecclesial Conference of 1976 to today.”
The article made a case precisely for the urgency of resuming in Italy the “journey interrupted” way back in 1976 by finally convening that national synod which Pope Francis wants at all costs – contrary to his predecessors – but to which the Italian episcopal conference continues to turn a deaf ear.
The result is that the presidency – of papal appointment – of Cardinal Bassetti is ever more in danger. Hs five-year term is set to expire in 2022. But the cardinal is also close to the age of 78, three years over the threshold of 75 beyond which every bishop remains in office only if the pope allows him to do so.
And whom will Francis place as head of the CEI, once Bassetti resigns? It is easy to foresee that it will be the current archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi (in the photo).
And one’s thoughts run once again to the future conclave. Which today sees at least six candidates in the race, only one of whom however seems to have some “chance” of being elected.
MARC OUELLET, CHRISTOPH SCHÖNBORN
Two of the six candidates are veterans, already in the running in previous conclaves.
Marc Ouellet, 75, Canadian, prefect of the congregation for bishops, was among the most voted for in the first two ballots of the conclave of 2013, before being surpassed by Bergoglio, and today has the reputation of fidelity to the reigning pope but also as a defender of orthodoxy.
Christoph Schönborn, 74, Austrian, was instead more voted for by the media than within the Sistine Chapel, but he too has built during this pontificate a profile as a deft weaver of agreements between moderates and progressives, especially at the two synods on the family.
Both, therefore, could be voted for by a fairly broad swath of cardinal electors.
Both the one and the other, however, appear far from being able to assemble the elevated consensus – two thirds of the votes – necessary for election. Both belong to an aristocracy of cardinals who today find themselves out of place among the great number, by now the majority, of those who have received the scarlet from Pope Francis, for the most part men of the periphery, unfamiliar with one another, of modest education and limited experience in second-tier dioceses, more easily influenced by scrappy little lobbies than by the lofty discourses of cardinals of a past generation, perhaps even scarcely faithful pupils, like the young Schönborn, of Joseph Ratzinger when he was a professor of theology.
More chiseled, instead, is the profile of Cardinal Robert Sarah, 74, from Guinea, since 2014 prefect of the congregation for divine worship. With him one has, in the history of the Church, the first true candidate for the papacy coming from black Africa.
His biography is remarkable. An undaunted witness of the Catholic faith under the bloody Marxist regime of Sekou Touré, he was not executed only because of the tyrant’s sudden death in 1984. Raised on the savanna but with advanced studies in France and Jerusalem, he was made a bishop at the age of just 33 by Paul VI, was called to Rome by John Paul II and kept there by Benedict XVI, with whom his agreement is still total today.
Sarah was revealed to the world by three of his books that have been translated into multiple languages: “God or Nothing” of 2015, “The Power of Silence” of 2017, and “The Day Is Now Far Spent” of 2019. There is a chasm between his vision of the Church’s mission and that of the Jesuit pope, both in content and in style. For Sarah, as for Ratzinger as well, the absolute priority is to bring God into the heart of societies, especially where his presence has been obscured.
For the opponents of Pope Francis in the name of the Church’s grand tradition, he is therefore the ideal candidate. But in a college of cardinals more than half of which has been appointed by Bergoglio, it is unthinkable that he would approach the two thirds of the votes necessary for election. He would get at the most a couple dozen at the first ballot, of a demonstrative character.
Not symbolic but real is instead the candidacy of Pietro Parolin, 64, an Italian from the diocese of Vicenza, since 2013 secretary of state.
One must go back to the conclave of 1963 to find elected as pope, with Paul VI, a churchman who grew up in the heart of the Vatican curia and with recognized management abilities, after a pontificate, that of John XXIII, that had set in motion a council that however was in full tempest and had not yet produced any document whatsoever. Paul VI succeeded in the endeavor, although he undeservedly ended up in the black books of those accused of betraying the revolutions.
Today the endeavor that a certain number of cardinals would entrust to Parolin is to bring back onto the right course the ship of the Church in the squall created by Pope Francis, correcting his driftings without betraying his spirit. In him some see the temper of the diplomat united with the profile of the pastor, which Parolin himself seeks to corroborate by alternating with the tasks proper to the secretary of state those of the care for souls, in a breathtaking schedule packed with Masses, homilies, conferences, trips, visits, meetings.
It must however be said that for at least a year the support for a Parolin candidacy has not been on the rise, but on the decline. In the light of the facts, his abilities to stem and balance the state of confusion induced in the Church by the pontificate of Francs have been judged as being too modest. And also as a diplomat he is credited with more failures than successes. China is now playing against him, as a lost wager.
LUIS ANTONIO GOKIM TAGLE
On the rise instead are the “chances” of Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, a Filipino with a Chinese mother and one who has studied theology and Church history in the United States.
Tagle is the dauphin of Pope Francis, the successor he has “in pectore.” In calling him to preside over “Propaganda Fide,” he has entrusted to him the governance of part of Latin America, of almost all of Africa, of almost all of Asia excluding the Philippines, and of Oceania with the exception of Australia, meaning precisely that immense periphery of the Church that is so dear to Bergoglio.
But already before this Francis had acted to strengthen the international stature of this favorite of his. He called him to preside over the synod on the family. And in April of 2016, just after the release of the exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” in which the pope opened up communion for the divorced and remarried, Tagle was the first among the bishops of the whole world to give it the broadest interpretation.
To those who objected that the fluid magisterium of Pope Francis has given rise to more doubts than certainties, his response was that “it’s good to be confused once in a while. If things are always clear, then we might not be in real life anymore.”
On the path of the Church in the present times Tagle however has a very clear idea: with Vatican Council II the Church has broken with the past and has marked a new beginning. It is the historiographical thesis of what is called the “school of Bologna,” founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti and today headed by Professor Alberto Melloni, of which Tagle is part. His is the byline on one of the key chapters of the most widely read history of the Council in the world – that produced by none other than the “school of Bologna” – the chapter on the “black week” of the autumn of 1964. The polar opposite of the interpretation of the Council given by Benedict XVI, who, magnanimously, in 2012 made Tagle a cardinal.
At the conclusion of the synod on young people, in 2018, Tagle was the first one elected for Asia to the preparatory council for the next synod. A sign of the widespread consensus he had already gathered. And then again Francis entrusted to him an introductory talk at the summit on sexual abuse of January 2019 at the Vatican, another event with worldwide resonance.
That Tagle would also be elected pope tomorrow, however, is anything but a foregone conclusion. Too close to Bergoglio not to end up pulverized by the many exasperations with the current pontificate that will inexorably come to the surface in a future conclave.And then there is the obstacle of age. Tagle is 62 and therefore could reign for a long time, too long for one to dare to gamble on him.
Matteo Zuppi was also elected to the post-synodal council of 2018. A sign of an already consolidated international stature, in spite of the fact that he had been archbishop of Bologna for only three years and had not yet received the scarlet, with which Francis vested him on October 5, 2019.
What has brought him renown and prestige for some time is a primary aspect of his biography. Not so much being the grandnephew of a cardinal, Carlo Confalonieri (1893-1986), who was also secretary to Pope Pius XI, but rather being a cofounder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, unquestionably the most powerful, influential, and omnipresent Catholic lobby of recent decades, at the worldwide level.
As assistant ecclesiastic general of the Community of Sant’Egidio and pastor until 2010 of the Roman basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in addition to being auxiliary bishop of Rome as of that year, Zuppi has found himself at the center of an incomparable network of persons and events on a planetary scale, both religious and geopolitical, from the peace agreements in Mozambique of the years 1990-92 to present-day support for the secret agreement between the Holy See and China, from the interreligious meetings in Assisi to the “humanitarian corridors” for immigrants in Europe from Africa and Asia.
With consummate ability, the Community of Sant’Egidio has also succeeded in adapting itself perfectly to the governing approach of each of the recent pontiffs, from John Paul II to Benedict XVI to Francis. But it is above all with this last that it has reached its apogee, with Vincenzo Paglia at the head of the Vatican institutes for life and the family, with Matteo Bruni at the head of the press office, and above all with Cardinal Zuppi as archbishop of Bologna and on his way to becoming president of the Italian episcopal conference.
From here to his election as pope the way forward is not guaranteed, but is seriously in the order of things. All the more so with a disorganized college of cardinals, unsure in its mindset and easy to direct, at the hands of a lobby not of cardinals this time – like the legendary “mafia” of St. Gallen that fostered the election of Bergoglio – but surely more influential and decisive, which has the name, sure enough, of Community of Sant’Egidio.
There is already a documentary about him, with the title: “The Gospel according to Matteo Z.” And this is its trailer, on the one who may be the next pope:
> Zuppi, il vescovo di stradaCondividi: