The Pope at War

the Pope Francis says there are people in the Vatican who want him dead. “I’m still alive, even though some wanted me dead. With these words, he was responding to a question asked about his state of health, the day after an operation undergone in July.

This quote appears in a long interview that appeared last week in the Jesuit review. La Civiltà Cattolica. The Pope appears there to be very upset against those – and there are many – who criticize him, who swarm and frolic in the Vatican. Maybe not by plotting to assassinate him, but by fervently wishing his demise or his resignation.

In this interview in Italian, with long verbatim answers, we see that François enjoys conversation and contradiction. He fully understood that the real world of 2021, including among Catholics, is often far removed from dogma. And also that there are people in the Church who openly fight it.

He knows it. He says it and does not speak – it is visible in this interview with a group of Jesuit intellectuals – in a “papal” way; he does not pontificate. He expresses spontaneous opinions, likes controversy, talks a bit like in a café, not always a diplomat. Quick to repartee and carried to the counter-attack, he knows that the Vatican is a nest of vipers.

In this interview, he clearly addresses the prelates who plague and plot against him. The thing is known and has been part of the landscape since almost the start of his reign (March 2013).

Regarding his illness and his hospitalization – internal deformation of the large intestine, stenosis or obstruction, requiring partial removal of the organ – he said that some prelates were already preparing for a conclave in mid-July. ! “I know that there were even meetings between prelates… They were preparing the conclave. Patience! Thank God I’m fine… ”

Even pronounced in a semi-playful tone, these words recall the divisions, the tensions in the Catholic Church… which, even if they do not make the headlines these days, have never ceased.

The measured reformism of the pope on various issues – not on abortion, nor on the “gender theories” which he fights, but on the rights of homosexuals -, and also his continuous, obsessive attention paid to economic and social questions (inequalities, migrations, globalization, environment) make him a political pope, inserted in his time, a “left” pope.

He can face politicians, as he did two weeks ago in Hungary, when he met Prime Minister Viktor Orban and then went on to advocate on predictable themes (diversity, openness to others). , fight against anti-Semitism), but having the particularity of placing it at the antipodes of the positions of Orban, who declares himself at the forefront of the “defense of Christianity in Europe”.

Revealing quote: “Some have accused me of not talking about holiness. They say that I always speak of the social and that I am a communist. “

To qualify those who contradict him, he evokes what he calls “the ideology of going backwards”. Then adds: “It is not a really universal problem, but rather specific to the churches of certain countries. “

We know that in Africa, in many Catholic hierarchies, the slightest opening to homosexuals goes very badly. And there is the United States, where the conservative camp is very strong, often linked to the political right or the far right. Cardinal Raymond Burke is the leader of this tendency openly hostile to the Pope, who is acting in the shadows for his overthrow.

Another representative of this “hard” right: Cardinal Carlo Maria Viganò, ex-ambassador to Washington. On COVID-19, Burke and Viganò – himself a friend of Steve Bannon, Trump’s former adviser – are close to antivax and anti-masks. They argued that Catholics are “protected from coronavirus by their faith in Jesus ”. Unimaginable excesses in the mouth of Pope Bergoglio, as believer as he is.

The inaction in this two-thousand-year-old organization, the difficulty of carrying out reforms are intertwined with fundamental debates.

The infighting revolves around scandals of sexual abuse (which have become the unique angle of many media when they talk about the Church), but also of corruption and “black” funding, of doctrinal disputes.

Pope Francis has made efforts to reform the Byzantine administrative apparatus of the Vatican, but the resistance is fierce: he periodically expresses his weariness and discouragement about it.

This existential power struggle, in the Church of 2021, opened with the death, in 2005, of John Paul II. In this deaf war, what are the chances of Francis and of those who, with him, hope for a “recasting” of the Church?

They are based, among other things, in the replacement at the step of charge of the cardinal electors who will one day choose their replacement. As of September 2021, Francis has appointed no less than 79 of the 121 cardinals who make up the electoral college.

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