Pope to hold rare series of meetings due to health concerns

Pope Francis will hold the first of three extraordinary meetings of cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church on Saturday as speculation over his possible retirement continues.

The pontiff will officially elevate 20 men to the rank of cardinal at the first extraordinary consistory on Saturday, including 16 who are under the age of 80 and therefore able to vote in a papal election.

The appointment of new cardinal-electors has fueled speculation that the 85-year-old pope may decide to retire, as his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did in 2013.

However, there are other reasons why Church watchers are discussing Francis’ possible departure. It is unusual to hold consistories in August – they usually take place in February, June or November.

The pope will hold a second consistory just after the first so that the cardinals can consent to the canonization of two new saints, but it is the consistory scheduled for August 29 and 30 that has received the most attention.

One of the newly created cardinals is Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego and the newest American cardinal. He is considered a close ally of the pope and at 68 he is young enough to vote in a conclave.

On Sunday, before the start of the third consistory, Francis will visit the Italian town of L’Aquila, which has a special association with medieval Pope Celestine V, who resigned from the papacy in 1294 after about six months in office.

Celestine V was cited when Benedict XVI chose to step down nearly a decade ago and speculation is rife that Francis was going to L’Aquila before his own retirement was announced.

The two-day meeting of cardinals due to begin on August 29 is officially focused on the new constitution of the Roman Curia, predicate evangelium. The Curia is indeed the governing body of the Church.

However, Francis could use the meeting as an opportunity to announce his resignation, although no official announcement has been made about the pope’s intentions and he has previously sought to quell speculation about his future.

Last month, Francis acknowledged he had to slow down or face the possibility of abandoning the papacy.

“I think that at my age and with this limitation, I have to save myself a little to be able to serve the church. Or, alternatively, to think about the possibility of retiring,” the pontiff said.

The pope recently took to using a wheelchair due to knee pain and was forced to cancel several events during a trip to Africa in June. He also suffers from sciatica – a chronic condition that causes Francis pain in his hip.

The resignation is extremely unusual for a pope and was virtually unheard of until Benedict XVI chose to retire. Most of the popes of the last centuries left office only by death.

There are also no formal rules in place regarding former popes, their role and how the Church might handle the unprecedented situation of two living former pontiffs. But François has the ability to introduce rules on the matter before a possible resignation.

If the pontiff resigns, the cardinal electors will meet to elect his successor. After the August consistory, there will be 132 cardinals and 83 of them will have been appointed by Francis. This represents 62% of the electorate and has added to speculation that the pope is trying to shape the conclave that will choose his successor.

When Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, it took just 13 days for the papal conclave to meet and elect Pope Francis.

Pope Francis leads his weekly general audience on August 10, 2022 in Vatican City, Vatican. Speculation continued that the pope might soon step down.
Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button