After being hospitalized again at the Gemelli Hospital for a second intestinal operation, which follows the one two years ago, it is already a fact that Pope Francis’ health is a factor of uncertaintywhich feeds the inmates in the Holy See.
And this, even more than in the last two years, will unleash all possible speculations about the consequences of Bergoglio and about the fact that it is necessary to prepare for an upcoming Conclave. Surely, in the Vatican and outside, there are those who are already doing it.
After the first colon operation, on July 4, 2021, again in Gemelli, it was the Pontiff himself who alluded to that scenario. He was in Bratislava, during a pastoral visit, in a meeting with the Jesuits of the region.
To the first and simple question, “How are you?”, the answer was a true provocation from Francisco: “I’m still alive. Although some wanted me dead. I know that there have even been meetings between prelates, who thought that mine was more serious of what was said. They were preparing the conclave. Patience! Thank God, I’m fine…”
During that hospitalization, among other things, there were those who had bounced the “news” about the possibility of his resignation due to being seriously ill… returned to sender by the Pope himself.
“I personally may deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the Church does not deserve this: it is the work of the devil. I even told some of them,” adds Francisco, who also complains about the gossip and accusations in many Catholic circles.
Since then, and even more so after his last hospitalization last March for a respiratory infection, to whom he asks how he is, Pope Francis replies that “he is still alive”
To date, in addition to the audiences suspended due to hospitalization until Sunday, June 18, the Pontiff continues to look forward to his upcoming engagements: the trip to Lisbon from August 2 to 6 has been announced, the one to Mongolia from August 31 to September 4 and in October there will be the Synod on synodality, while this same Wednesday he announced an upcoming Apostolic Letter on Saint Teresa of Lisieux.
Francisco has always repeated that the intention to resign “never crossed” his mind, although he already signed the letter of resignation at the beginning of his pontificate, ten years ago, in the event of a medical impediment.
But there is no shortage of difficulties in carrying out his ministry, including those caused by persistent and tenacious “gonalgia”, pain in the right knee due to ligament problems that prevents him from moving easily, standing up and that forces him to only preside over the celebrations, both in the Vatican and on trips, while cardinals and bishops always celebrate at the altar.
The delicate matter of succession
And the current hospitalization with a new surgical operation will revive the tom-tom, in particular fueled by its critics, on the fragile health of the Pope and on the prospect of a succession.
Only in recent days has there been talk that for the first time, since Friday June 2, the cardinal electors pointed by Pope Francis since the beginning of his pontificate make up two thirds of the total, that is, the quorum necessary to elect to a Pope in a Conclave.
The mathematical quota, equal to 81 elector cardinals out of 121, was reached with the 80th birthday of the archbishop emeritus of Nles, Crescenzio Sepe, which fell precisely on June 2.
Of the other 40 “electors”, nine were created by John Paul II and 31 by Benedict XVI.
But even if Bergoglio’s pointees can now choose a successor, anyone who thinks it is a cohesive and uniform “corps” would be mistaken. Far from there. Among them there is everything, and much more than just “progressives” and innovators.
Given his history, Matteo Zuppi could surely belong to this last identikit, as well as the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Canadian Jesuit Michael Czerny, the faithful Polish beggar Konrad Krajewski, other Italians such as Paolo Lojudice and the missionary in Mongolia Giorgio Marengo, an exponent like few of the “Churches on the border”.
Among those nominated by Francis, however, is also one of the leaders of the “conservative” front, the German Gerhard Ludwig Mueller.
Also conservative are many Americans and many Africans. Whereas in a mediation position one could include an authoritative figure such as the secretary of state Pietro Parolin.
It remains to be seen how and towards whom such a heterogeneous formation will converge, a widely open question. And even the “when” remains with a question mark, since, at least for the moment, and if health conditions allow it, Pope Bergoglio does not seem to have the intention of giving in.