As a good Jesuit, Pope Francis believes in the great ideas of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in particular that of using discernment to decide the path to follow. And he knows that if his health allows it, beyond the walking problems that force him to move in a wheelchair, the time of old age advances inexorably and today’s critical moment is a warning of what will come.
It is necessary to move forward but “creating the space” to govern the future of his papacy “learning to say goodbye”, as he himself has said.
His catechesis on old age in recent weeks at the Wednesday general audience looks like a preparation for the faithful to know that the pontiff knows that he must prepare to resign and it is best to do things in time.
In the Vatican, an optimist recalled that in 2025 a Jubilee Year will be celebrated, an opportunity to retire after having prepared the ground. But then the Pope will be marking the 89th birthday he will be on December 17.
Due to his right knee problems, the Pope has been in a wheelchair in recent weeks. Photo: EFE
Everything seems to indicate that Francisco’s lucidity avoids paving the way for goodbye to the papacy with fixed dates. Once again: as a Jesuit he reaches out to Saint Ignatius of Loyola and believes that the best thing is to advance in a process aided by good discernment.
This process has already begun and is crystallizing in stages. August is an important keybecause on the 29th and 30th he will meet with the cardinals of the Sacred College to examine, exchange ideas and get to know each other around the reform of the Roman Curiawhich was a mandate of the Conclave that elected him pontiff in March 2013, after the resignation of Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger, who is still alive at 95 years of age.
Francis is proud to have completed the reform of the Curia with the Apostolic Constitution “Preach the Gospel”, which reorganizes the dicasteries (“ministries”) of the Curia, which is the central government of the Church.
After more than eight years the work is complete and claims to have adapted the Church to modern times in your core organization.
Jorge Bergoglio from Buenos Aires secretly wants his reforms to be valid and, if possible, irreversible. That is why he wants to fully carry out another instrument of the process, the global synod which will mean “the last prophetic act of his pontificate”, as a Vatican source told Chris Lamb, who wrote an excellent article in the authorized Catholic organ Tablet.
Chris Lamb hypothesizes that the freedom to discern the path to follow would allow the Pope to give himself a longer temporary space than the few days that there are to prepare the Conclave after the death or resignation of the pontiff from the ministry of Bishop of Rome.
This idea must actually have been going on in the Pope’s mind for some time. And he explains how Bergoglio believes that the global Synod that will culminate in his world assembly of bishops in Rome in October 2023 is a key instrument to affirm its reforms and project them into the future.
Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013. Today he is Pope Emeritus. Photo: AP
The path that Benedict XVI opened
World Catholicism should be grateful for the vision of Joseph Ratzinger and his decision to resign when he believed that he was not in a position to continue his papacy at 85 years of age. 719 years had passed since the resignation of Celestino V.
Ratzinger’s resignation has been a great reforming act of the Immobile Church that naturally resists changes but in the long run accepts the reforms.
The resignation of his successor, Pope Bergoglio, is now a natural act if it comes to accepting that it is better to make way for a new, younger pontiff, because the papacy still does not change its style and structure.
The Church elects in the Conclave an absolute monarch, both religious leader and head of a State (the Vatican) that maintains diplomatic relations with almost 200 nations. A leader condemned to overwork because there is no vice-pope or a structure that alleviates his fatigue.
Pope Francis, in a meeting at the Vatican, at the beginning of June. Photo: EFE
But Francis in this preparatory phase wants to ensure his reforms to posterity. The end of the month of August that is approaching will be very important. On the 29th and 30th the Pope will gather the cardinals to discuss the reform of the Curia.
But on August 27, the Consistory will have been held in which cHe will reappoint another 21 cardinals, 16 of them electors in the Conclave that will elect Francis’s successor.
These 16 from Bergoglian payroll will reinforce the progressive armored majority of 83 cardinals created by the current pontiff who already have a large majority to elect his successor.
If in 2023 there is another Consistory and new Bergoglian cardinals, the reformist majority will exceed the cardinals necessary for a quorum of two thirds of the 132 cardinal electors in the Conclave.
Perhaps the most significant act will take place on August 28, when the Pope will travel to the city of L’Aquila, a hundred kilometers from Rome, to pay homage to the memory of Celestine V, the Pope who resigned seven centuries ago.
That Bergoglio has decided to salute his memory by visiting his tomb between the creation of new cardinals and the meeting with the cardinals to examine the reform already carried out in the Curia, cannot fail to stimulate reflections and speculations about the non-immediate resignation of Francis, apparently within the framework of a process governed and already launched by the Argentine Pope.