Well-funded lobby groups and media organisations are seeking to influence the next conclave. The Tablet’s Rome correspondent considers their chances of success
This summer, several voices long dissatisfied with Pope Francis have started to beat the drum roll for change. There has been a stream of press articles and social media posts, and last month two books were published, both titled The Next Pope. There is nothing unusual about chatter in Roman trattorias about who the next Pope might be, naturally exacerbated when the incumbent is in his eighties. In 2020, however, opponents of Francis are not only idly speculating, but channelling their energies into trying to influence the next conclave. There is going to be an almighty battle.
Let’s be clear: even though Francis is 83, and has run a gruelling schedule for seven and a half years as the 266th successor of St Peter, there are no indications that he is unwell or suffering from any specific health problem. Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, one of Francis’ closest collaborators, told me during a webinar for The Tablet last month that the Pope had successfully adapted his ministry to the Covid-19 pandemic and was “in good health, good humour and good hope”.
Francis shows no signs of slowing down. Following his July “staycation” in the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope said last week that his forthcoming Wednesday general audiences would be devoted to Catholic Social Teaching, so that the Church can help “prepare the future” in the light of Covid-19. He continues to push through a programme of Vatican reforms, as we saw most recently with a raft of new appointments that included six women to the council that oversees Holy See finances.