Cardinals of the Catholic Church meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican

Cardinals of the Catholic Church meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican
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VATICAN CITY — Cardinals of the Catholic Church gathered in Rome on Saturday for a series of official events that began with Pope Francis elevating 20 new clergymen to their elite club. On the agenda are two days of discussions on reforms to the Vatican’s constitution, starting Monday.

But just as important, there is an informal agenda.

Cardinals need to get to know each other, because whenever Francis resigns or dies, they will have to choose his successor from their own ranks. Given the rarity of such gatherings, this is one of their best chances to get together, nurture each other and form ideas about the future direction of the Catholic Church.

“This is not a casting [call]But we need this moment,” said Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero, the Spanish-born archbishop of Rabat, Morocco. That’s why we need to hear each other, to get to know each other.”

The Vatican says that 197 of the world’s 226 cardinals arrived in Rome this week – a remarkable percentage given the advanced age of the group members. (Only cardinals younger than 80 – currently 132 – are eligible to attend a meeting that elects the pope.)

Although the cardinals often met in significant numbers at the Vatican each time Francis created new members – which he did eight times during his pontificate – there was no consultation as is known in 2021. And the attendance of the cardinals in 2020 was also limited. Pandemic. As a result, this will be the first major conclave since 2019, where the end of Francis’ pontificate seems like a far more distant concept. Some church watchers say it’s necessary to go back even further—to 2015—to find a moment when cardinals appeared in similar numbers in the Vatican.

Four months later, Francis turned 86, an age only another pope has reached since the 1800s: Leo XIII was still 93 in 1903. Although his health was stable throughout most of his papacy, he had colon surgery last year. and he says he still has “scars” left over from general anaesthesia. And lately mostly in a wheelchair due to knee pain. While neither issue prohibits him from running the church, events remind of the frailty of old age and intense questions about longevity.

Francis last month”door open“He will retire if his health makes it impossible for him to run the church. But he said he hasn’t gotten to that point yet.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t start thinking the day after tomorrow. [about it]Right?” said Francis. “But right now, I honestly don’t want to.”

In earlier times of the church, Francis was expected to continue serving until his death. But the stunning 2013 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI created an alternative for modern popes.

Pope Benedict opposes Pope Francis in a retired retreat

When Francis leaves, his successor cardinals face several important questions. First, will they seek a successor who shares Francis’ vision of a more inclusive church? More than nine years since the Pope’s pontificate, Francis helped increase the likelihood of such a scenario, as his appointments now make up 63 percent of cardinals of voting age, according to Vatican statistics. Still, council meetings are notoriously unpredictable. Not all cardinals elected by Francis share his worldview. And the more conservative predecessors Benedict and II. The support of cardinals elected by John Paul will still be necessary for any future pope to reach the two-thirds threshold.

Another question is about geography – whether the next pope will be European. Before Francis of Argentina, the church had elected European pastors more than once. 1,000 years running. But as the church dried up in Europe, its geographic heart shifted to places like Latin America and Africa. With the cardinals he has elected over the years, Francis has made prospective electors less European. Francis’ last group of cardinals represents places like East Timor, Colombia, and Nigeria.

On Monday, the cardinals will discuss for two days on the Vatican’s new constitution, which was published in March, which is meant to reorganize the church bureaucracy. But there’s also plenty of time for fellowship. Their time in Rome coincided with the closure of the city in August, when Romans fled the city to the mountains and beaches and many cafes and restaurants were closed. The streets around the Vatican are filled with a mix of tour groups and high-ranking clergy.

López Romero said in an interview that he already had time to eat and pray with Robert Sarah, a cardinal from Guinea. Giorgio Marengo, the youngest 48-year-old cardinal, who has served in Mongolia for many years, said his hopes for the coming days are “very simple” in order to get to know the other cardinals better.

“There are people from persecuted churches. Theologians,” said Marengo. “I hope these days help me learn [from them]”

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