Pope Francis fuels new speculation on future of pontificate

ROME — Pope Francis added gasoline to rumors concerning the future of his pontificate by saying he would go to the central Italian metropolis of L’Aquila in August for a feast initiated by Pope Celestine V, one of the few pontiffs who resigned earlier than Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013.

Italian and Catholic media have been rife with unsourced speculation that the 85-year-old Francis is perhaps planning to observe in Benedict’s footsteps, given his elevated mobility issues which have pressured him to make use of a wheelchair for the final month.

Those rumors gained steam final week when Francis introduced a consistory to create 21 new cardinals scheduled for Aug. 27. Sixteen of these cardinals are below age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect Francis’ successor.

Once they’re added to the ranks of princes of the church, Francis could have stacked the College of Cardinals with 83 of the 132 voting-age cardinals. While there is no such thing as a assure how the cardinals may vote, the possibilities that they’ll faucet a successor who shares Francis’ pastoral priorities grow to be ever better.

In saying the Aug. 27 consistory, Francis additionally introduced he would host two days of talks the next week to transient the cardinals about his latest apostolic structure reforming the Vatican forms. That doc, which works into impact Sunday, permits girls to move Vatican places of work, imposes time period limits on priestly Vatican staff and positions the Holy See as an establishment on the service of native church buildings, reasonably than vice versa.

Francis was elected pope in 2013 on a mandate to reform the Roman Curia. Now that the nine-year challenge has been rolled out and not less than partially carried out, Francis’ most important process as pope has in some methods been completed.

All of which made Saturday’s in any other case routine announcement of a pastoral go to to L’Aquila carry extra speculative weight than it would in any other case have.

Notable was the timing: The Vatican and the remaining of Italy are normally on vacation in August to mid-September, with all however important enterprise closed. Calling a significant consistory in late August to create new cardinals, gathering churchmen for 2 days of talks on implementing his reform and making a symbolically vital pastoral go to suggests Francis may need out-of-the-ordinary enterprise in thoughts.

“With at the moment’s information that @Pontifex will go to L’Aquila within the very center of the August consistory, all of it received much more intriguing,” tweeted Vatican commentator Robert Mickens, linking to an essay he had revealed in La Croix International concerning the rumors swirling across the future of the pontificate.

The basilica in L’Aquila hosts the tomb of Celestine V, a hermit pope who resigned after 5 months in 1294, overwhelmed by the job. In 2009, Benedict visited L’Aquila, which had been devastated by a latest earthquake and prayed at Celestine’s tomb, leaving his pallium stole on it.

No one on the time appreciated the importance of the gesture. But 4 years later, the 85-year-old Benedict would observe in Celestine’s footsteps and resign, saying he now not had the power of physique and thoughts to hold on the trials of the papacy.

The Vatican introduced Saturday Francis would go to L’Aquila to have fun Mass on Aug. 28 and open the “Holy Door” on the basilica internet hosting Celestine’s tomb. The timing coincides with the L’Aquila church’s celebration of the Feast of Forgiveness, which was created by Celestine in a papal bull.

No pope has travelled to L’Aquila since to shut out the annual feast, which celebrates the sacrament of forgiveness so expensive to Francis, famous the present archbishop of L’Aquila, Cardinal Giuseppe Petrocchi.

“We hope that each one individuals, particularly these harmed by conflicts and inner divisions, may (come) and discover the trail of solidarity and peace,” he stated in a press release saying the go to.

Francis has praised Benedict’s resolution to retire as “opening the door” for future popes to do the identical, and he had initially predicted a brief papacy for himself of two to 5 years.

Nine years later, Francis has proven no indicators he desires to step down, and he has main initiatives nonetheless on the horizon.

In addition to approaching journeys this 12 months to Congo, South Sudan, Canada and Kazakhstan, in 2023 he has scheduled a significant assembly of the world’s bishops to debate the growing decentralization of the Catholic Church, in addition to the continued implementation of his reforms.

But Francis has been hobbled by the strained ligaments in his proper knee which have made strolling painful and tough. He has instructed mates he doesn’t wish to endure surgical procedure, reportedly as a result of of his response to anesthesia final July when he had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his giant gut eliminated.

This week, one of his closest advisers and mates, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, stated discuss of a papal resignation or the tip of Francis’ pontificate was unfounded.

“I believe these are optical illusions, cerebral illusions,” Maradiaga instructed Religion Digital, a Spanish-language Catholic website.

Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, famous that almost all Vatican watchers anticipate Francis will ultimately resign, however not earlier than Benedict dies. The 95-year-old retired pope is bodily frail however nonetheless alert and receiving occasional guests in his house within the Vatican gardens.

“He’s not going to have two former popes floating round,” Bellitto stated in an e mail. Referring to Francis’ deliberate go to to L’Aquila, he urged not studying an excessive amount of into it, noting that Benedict’s gesture in 2009 was missed by most everybody.

“I don’t recall quite a bit of tales on the time saying that Benedict’s go to in 2009 made us assume he was going to resign,” he stated, suggesting that Francis’ pastoral go to to l’Aquila is perhaps simply that: a pastoral go to.


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