In the Vatican, Pope Francis organizes his succession

Pope Francis announced on Sunday the appointment of 21 cardinals. An eminently strategic decision since among these new close advisers of the sovereign pontiff, sixteen will be authorized to take part in a conclave. All under the age of 80, these voters could be called upon to appoint the future successor to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now 85 and whose state of health, considered worrying, is fueling the rumors in the halls of the Vatican.

Trip to Lebanon rescheduled

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Among his new close guard are figures inclined to reform the Catholic Church. The French Jean-Marc Aveline, 63, archbishop of Marseille since 2019, is thus in the right pastoral line of the Argentine pope. Born in Algeria, from the northern districts of the Phocaean city where he was ordained a priest in 1984, a fervent craftsman of interreligious dialogue, he became the fifth French archbishop with voting power.

Five cardinals come to reinforce the college of Asian electors (there are now 20). Their number increases from 15 to 17 for Africa, and from 12 to 15 for South America. Monsignor Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego (United States), committed to the protection of the environment and the benevolence of the Church towards homosexuals, is another figure close to the pope joining the circle of his relatives. advisers. The American prelate distinguished himself in particular by qualifying « grotesque » the wall erected by President Donald Trump on the border with Mexico. A Franciscan, Mgr Leonardo Ulrich, 71, member of the National Conference of Bishops, embodies a fringe openly critical of the power in place in Brazil.

The pope’s health is a sensitive subject on which the Vatican communicates sparingly, at his request. But the Holy Father appears more and more diminished. On May 5, suffering from a ligament problem in his right knee, he appeared in public for the first time in a wheelchair. Beset by hip pain that makes him limp, the pope also underwent colon surgery in July 2021.

During a trip to Malta in April, the pope was unable to board his plane via the gangplank. And while his trip to Lebanon scheduled for June 12 and 13 has been postponed ” for health reasons “, doubt hangs over its ability to honor the trips planned to Congo from July 2 to 7, then from July 24 to 29 in Canada.

Could François eventually be forced to step down? Such a decision would place him in the wake of his predecessor Benoit XVI, the first pope to have renounced his pontificate during his lifetime since the Middle Ages. “As soon as the pope is hospitalized, he always blows a conclave breeze or hurricane,” he had joked about it at the microphone of a Spanish radio.