17 August 2022, The Tablet

View from Rome

View from Rome

The last days of August, when the world’s cardinals will gather in Rome, marks the beginning of what can be described as a “pre-conclave” period. It is a time when speculation over who could succeed Pope Francis really starts to heat up and marks a critical moment to take stock of the Francis pontificate, due to mark 10 years on 13 March 2023.

Pope Francis, who turns 86 on 17 December, has repeatedly talked about the possibility of stepping down. He is not seeking to cling to office at all costs. At the same time, Francis will resist any pressure from those unhappy with the direction in which he is steering the Barque of St Peter. There are choppy waters ahead, and he is likely to keep his hand on the tiller for the time being.

On 27 August he is to create 20 new cardinals, 16 of them eligible to vote in a conclave. This will be followed by two days of meetings with cardinals to discuss the new constitution of the Roman Curia, Praedicate Evangelium. Francis was elected with a mandate to reform the Church’s central government and recently said changes he wants were discussed by the College of Cardinals before the 2013 conclave.

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