The cardinals have to get to know each other, as a result of each time Francis resigns or dies, they’ll have to choose his successor from amongst their ranks. Given the rarity of such gatherings, that is one in all their greatest probabilities to huddle, dimension up each other, and kind opinions in regards to the future course of the Catholic Church.
“It’s not a casting [call], however we’d like this second,” mentioned Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero, the Spanish-born archbishop of Rabat, Morocco. “Ultimately, we now have to decide on the subsequent pope. So we have to hear each other, to know each other.”
The Vatican says that 197 of the world’s 226 cardinals have made it to Rome this week — a exceptional share, given the superior age of the group members. (Solely the cardinals youthful than 80 — in the meanwhile, 132 individuals — are eligible to take part in a conclave that selects the pope.)
Although cardinals usually convene in vital numbers on the Vatican anytime Francis creates new members — one thing he has completed eight instances throughout his papacy — there was no consistory, as it’s identified, in 2021. And the one in 2020 had restricted attendance due to the pandemic. Because of this, that is the primary main gathering of cardinals since 2019, a time when the endpoint of Francis’s hold forth appeared a much more distant notion. Some church watchers say one has to return even additional — to 2015 — to discover a second when cardinals turned up on the Vatican in comparable numbers.
In 4 months, Francis turns 86, an age reached by just one different sitting pope for the reason that 1800s: Leo XIII, nonetheless sitting at age 93 in 1903. Though his well being had been regular all through a lot of his papacy, final 12 months he underwent colon surgical procedure and says he nonetheless experiences residual “traces” from the overall anesthesia. And not too long ago he’s been principally in a wheelchair due to knee ache. Whereas neither problem has prohibited his governing of the church, the occasions have stood as a reminder in regards to the frailty of outdated age and have intensified questions about his longevity.
Francis mentioned final month that the “door is open” to retirement within the occasion that his well being makes it unimaginable for him to run the church. However he mentioned he had not but reached that time.
“That doesn’t imply the day after tomorrow I don’t begin considering [about it], proper?” Francis mentioned. “However proper now, I truthfully don’t.”
In earlier eras of the church, it could have been anticipated that Francis would proceed to serve till his loss of life. However the gorgeous 2013 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has created another for contemporary popes.
At any time when Francis leaves the job, there are a number of essential questions dealing with cardinals who will decide his substitute. One is whether or not they’ll search a successor who shares Francis’s imaginative and prescient of a extra inclusive church. Francis, greater than 9 years into his hold forth, has helped to spice up the chances of such a state of affairs, as a result of his appointments now account for 63 p.c of voting-age cardinals, in line with Vatican statistics. Nonetheless, conclaves are notoriously unpredictable. Not all cardinals chosen by Francis share his worldview. And assist from cardinals chosen by extra conservative predecessors Benedict and John Paul II would nonetheless be mandatory for any future pope to achieve the two-thirds threshold.
One other query is about geography — whether or not the subsequent pope will probably be non-European. Earlier than Francis, who’s Argentine, the church had chosen European pontiffs for greater than 1,000 years running. However because the church withers in Europe, its geographical coronary heart has shifted to locations like Latin America and Africa. Francis, with the cardinals he has chosen through the years, has made the physique of would-be electors much less European. Francis’s newest batch of cardinals symbolize locations akin to East Timor, Colombia and Nigeria.
On Monday, the cardinals will maintain two days of talks on the Vatican’s new structure, which was revealed in March and amounted to a reorganization of the church’s forms. However there may be additionally loads of time for fraternizing. Their time in Rome coincides with town’s August shutdown, with Romans having decamped from town to mountains and seashores, and lots of cafes and eating places are closed. The streets across the Vatican are crammed with a mixture of tour teams and high-ranking prelates.
López Romero, in an interview, mentioned he had already had time to dine with and pray with a cardinal from Guinea, Robert Sarah. The youngest cardinal, Giorgio Marengo, 48, an Italian who has served in Mongolia for a few years, mentioned his hopes for the times forward are “very fundamental” — attending to know the opposite cardinals higher.
“You may have individuals coming from persecuted church buildings. Theologians,” Marengo mentioned. “I hope nowadays will assist me be taught [from them].”