the Vatican under high tension

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On November 20, 2010, the newly appointed Cardinal Robert Sarah kissed the hand of Pope Benedict after receiving the red bar at St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican. Pier Paolo Cito / AP

Forty-two hours in the Vatican can be more breathtaking than on Netflix or Canal +, both of which broadcast the adventures of fictional popes. Forty-two hours: this is the time it took for a book to be published in France, Wednesday January 15, to raise fears of a confrontation between Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, today ” pope emeritus ”. So that the war between pro and anti-François knows a new fever. For the Vaticanists to conclude that the cohabitation between a pope and a living predecessor is a challenge. And so that an editor, in this case Fayard, is finally forced to remove the name of one of the co-authors – Benedict XVI – from this book ‘Historic’, as indicated on the back cover, the day before it was released.

Rembobinons. A book co-signed by Benedict XVI, without mentioning his title of “emeritus pope” , and by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation for divine worship (that is to say high official of the Roman curia, the government of the Catholic Church), plunges Sunday evening January 12 the Vatican in a crisis of a new kind. As acute as it was unexpected, it raised the specter of a public confrontation, on an ecclesial and theological subject, between a pope and his predecessor having renounced the throne of Peter. Entitled From the depths of our hearts (Fayard, 180 pages, 18 euros), this work combats the possibility of ordaining priests of married men.

Read also The Pope and the shadow of a schism

This possibility was requested, exceptionally, by the majority of bishops gathered in Rome in October 2019 for a synod on the Amazon, in order to compensate for the lack of priests in this immense and sometimes difficult to access region, and where the communities are scattered. Pope Francis is expected to pronounce on this possibility in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation expected in the coming weeks.

This text will become part of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. If chosen by Francis, this possibility would open up a breach in the discipline of celibacy, which had been compulsory for priests of the Latin Church since the Middle Ages. Obviously, the date of publication of Fayard’s book was chosen to interfere with this sequence and, some accuse, to put pressure on the pontiff.

Furious charge against the tone of the synod

Twenty-four hours after Le Figaro published the good sheets of it, Sunday evening, and without having had the opportunity to read it yet, the Vaticanist circles ignited, tweeting night and day to try to see clearly on the underside of this operation and to accuse or defend the authors. Several questions have emerged. Does the real state of health of Benedict XVI, 92 years old, allow him to participate in the writing of a book? Is he really a co-author? Why does the cover of the book bear his only name of pope, without that of Joseph Ratzinger, like on his other works of theology, and why does it not mention that he is “pope emeritus”? Why did you agree to endorse this offensive book alongside a cardinal who does not seek nuance, to the point of having put on the same level, in 2015, “Western ideologies of homosexuality and abortion and Islamist fanaticism” ?


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