Conservative-leaning clergy want the progressive pontiff out, says the Italian daily La Stampa
Following the death of Pope Benedict XVI, a group of cardinals in the Vatican has embarked on a project to pressure the sitting Pope Francis to resign, an unnamed cleric told the Turin-based La Stampa. This revelation of a supposedly secret plot has been picked up by other outlets, notably several tabloids in the UK.
The Express and the Daily Mail both published their versions of the story on Monday, referring to an article that appeared in La Stampa the day before. Both carry the quote from an anonymous cardinal – said to be Italian – that the plan will unfold along “various axes and phases” but with the sole objective of placing the papacy “under such stress that Francis will have to resign.”
The plotters are a minority right now, so they will need time to weaken Francis and win over other cardinals, the source allegedly said. Their campaign will supposedly focus on the pontiff’s “doctrinal choices” that have fostered discontent among the more conservative Catholics – notably regarding homosexuality, abortion and divorce – as well as on his failing health.
Francis, 86, has had several surgeries over the past year and has on occasion had to use a wheelchair to get around.
His predecessor Benedict XVI took the unusual step of resigning in February 2013, citing his advanced age. He passed away last month, at 95. According to speculation by the media, the “plotters” did not wish to move against Francis while Benedict was still alive, to avoid the unprecedented situation of having two retired living popes.
La Stampa saw something suspicious in the fact that Francis has recently met with Cardinal Georg Gaenswein, Benedict’s former personal secretary and still officially the prefect of the papal household, who remains sore that the new pontiff essentially retired him in all but name.
The Italian outlet said Francis had addressed the German-born cardinal’s accusations in his Sunday sermon, telling the faithful that “Gossip is a lethal weapon, it kills, it kills love, it kills society, it kills brotherhood.”
Francis has also made several political gaffes in recent months. The Vatican apologized to Russia for the pope’s interview with an American Jesuit magazine, in which he had described the Muslim Chechens and mainly Buddhist Buryats as the “cruelest” Russians. Moscow protested the offense against the minority communities, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the pope’s words as “strange” and “unchristian.”
Last month, Francis described the conflict in Ukraine as “a global war,” adding that such wars begin “when an empire begins to weaken.”