There is growing speculation that Pope Francis will resign. Here are the reasons why:
August is usually a quiet summer vacation month for the Vatican. This year, however, the Pope has convened a “consistory” (an assembly or council) to appoint 21 new cardinals on the unusual date of the 27th. Sixteen of the new cardinals will be under age 80, making them eligible as papal successors in future conclaves (meetings of the college of cardinals convened to elect a bishop of Rome/pope).
After the conclave, Francis has planned an unusual gathering of the world’s cardinals – a group that usually only meets when it’s time to elect a new pope. The official reason for the meeting is to review the Pope’s recent reform of the Vatican’s central bureaucracy. Yet many have interpreted it as a conscious opportunity for intercourse between the cardinals.
Since becoming Pope in 2013, Francis has appointed 83 new cardinals, some of whom come from countries not normally represented in the College of Cardinals. As a result, many do not know each other. According to Vatican correspondent, Gerard O’Connell of America Magazine, some cardinals have asked Pope Francis to arrange a meeting where the College of Cardinals could get to know each other to build some notoriety for the next conclave.
For Francis, whose time as Pope was marked by an emphasis on pastoral work rather than bureaucracy, this could be an attempt to build relationships among the large group so that when it comes time to elect a new pope who is considered cardinal without renowned. After all, the College of Cardinals and Pope Francis had experienced the friction of choosing a new pope when they barely knew each other.
When a papal conclave was convened in 2005 to elect a new pope following the death of Pope John Paul II, the cardinals had not met since 1978. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – a well-known Vatican representative who was Dean of the College of Cardinals and chaired its meetings – was elected after four votes. He took the name Pope Benedict XVI.
His closest rival in the electoral process was Pope Francis (then known as Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio), who was elected Pope following the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013.
Some believe that Francis has piled up the conclave with cardinals who think like him to safeguard his legacy. There will be 95 cardinals he has elected after the consistory, with 75-77 of the 120 votes needed for a quorum in a papal election.
Canceled travel plans, ill health, and a joke
The 85-year-old Pope has nPoped a wheelchair in recent weeks because of pain in his knee that has caused him to stumble more and more.
On June 12, Pope Francis apologized to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan for having to cancel his visit due to walking difficulties. He said he hoped his condition would improve.
The Vatican announced on Thursday that the July 2-7 trip had been indefinitely postponed due to the 85-year-old Pope’s knePope’sent, which has left him in a wheelchair for more than a month.
While the exact problem with Francis’ knee has not been clearly stated, the ongoing crisis has worsened recently.
In May, at the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana (CEI) – a 230-person conference of Italian bishops – the Pope reporPopey joked that instead of undergoing knee surgery, “I’m resigning!” – speed up rumors.
A planned visit to Pope Celestine V
At the same time, the cardinals are in Rome; Pope Francis has planned a day trip to the cathedral in L’Aquila to celebrate the feast of forgiveness. Mass will occur before the Basilica of Collemaggio, where Pope Celestino V is interned.
Celestine V was the first pope in history to resign voluntarily. He left after five months in the role, having been a reluctant pope known as Pope Pope of the “Great Rpopeal” and is believed to appear in Dante’s Inferno as the unnamed figure in the antechamber of Hell.
Pope Benedict XVI also went to L’Aquila on April 28, 2009, a few weeks after an earthquake hit the area. While there, Pope Benedict placed his pallium (liturgical vestment consisting of a strip of white woolen cloth wrapped around his shoulders representing the sheep that the shepherd carries on his shoulders) at the shrine of Pope Celestine V.
Four years later, people looked back on Benedict’s action as symbolic when he stepped down. Francis’ decision to take a day trip to the location at the same time as his meeting with the Cardinals is underway had only fueled rumors of his resignation.