Doubts about the pope’s health shake up versions of his succession

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Pope Francis, who in a wheelchair said he didn’t want surgery and the anesthesia gives him ‘inconvenience’, has imposed Matteo Zuppi, 66, Cardinal of Bologna, as the new president of the difficult Episcopal Conference Italian traditionally in conservative hands. The appointment has taste of succession

“Don Matteo”, as Zuppi likes to be called, is currently the avant-garde character of the progressive wing of the Churchin line with the ideas of Jorge Bergoglio, who said that what he wanted was the protagonist of a ” good change” in the most important episcopal assembly in the world, because its natural head is the Pope Bishop of Rome.

Francisco’s right knee and hip problems, which mortify in the first place the full capacity he needs to fulfill the harsh obligations of being the leader of the Church, an ultra-centralized religion where there is no vice -pope, increased the versions of the estate of a pontiff who will be 86 on December 17.

Beyond the movement issues, Bergoglio doesn’t appear to have any health complications.

The versions were watered down when the pope told the bishops gathered to appoint his new president that he did not want to have surgery and explained that he had had “inconveniences” due to the anesthesia after the colon operation that he had. suffered on the 4th of July. last year when 30 centimeters of his large intestine was removed due to a severe diverticular infection.


Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, in an image from 2019. Photo: AP

canceled trips

A serious problem is travel. The pope canceled some and confirmed he would visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in early July. An apostolic visit to Canada will follow between July 24 and 30.

But the trips, which are a very important part of the style and content of his papacy, are actually to be seen, conditioned by the treatment of infiltrations and rehabilitation therapies he receives on his right knee.

The pain seems to have disappeared or is much reduced, but it must be remembered that doctors favor surgery place a prosthesis on the diseased knee.

The problem is complex. In 1994, Bergoglio underwent right hip surgery in Buenos Aires. They fitted him with a prosthesis, but his posture and gait due to the painful sciatica he suffers from ended up causing him to malfunction in his right knee.

Pope Francis, with a cane and a helper to get up after the general audience this Wednesday, at the Vatican.  Photo: AP

Pope Francis, with a cane and a helper to get up after the general audience this Wednesday, at the Vatican. Photo: AP

An operation for cartilage wear and ligament rupture takes less than an hour and has a postoperative period of a month, with intense rehabilitation that would get him back on his feet in just a week after surgery.

But some medical luminaries argue that if osteoarthritis has also developed in the hip, there would be two operations necessary and the second is the most complex, with rehabilitation that could take three months.

The “hassles” by the anesthesia that the pope revealed to the Italian bishops complicate the decisions.

So far, it has been argued in Vatican circles that the Pope’s decision to expand the Church’s borders justifies the strategy of supporting Filipino Cardinal Luis “Chito” Tagle, former Archbishop of the Philippines, whom Francis has promoted. to the strategic post of Prefect of the Church. . Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which deals with the missions of the Church.

Succession candidate?

Zuppi’s nomination adds a new candidate who could bolster support from Italian cardinals, not yet identified with Bergoglio’s ideas.

They could also be joined by cardinals who believe the times are not ripe for the change that the election of an Asian pope would bring.

Right-wing opponents of Bergoglio, led by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, have focused their battle to prevent the posthumous triumph of the Argentine pope, in a conspiracy work on the cardinals who will enter the Conclave to choose the successor.

For the first time, the Pope did not convene a Consistory last year to create new cardinal electors, who are those who have the right to vote before the age of 80, as established by the reform of Paul VI.

A maximum of 120 voters has also been set, which this year will drop to 110 due to the age limit. It is expected that in the coming months the Pope will convene a new Consistory.

Most have already obtained it in 2019, the year Matteo Zuppi was created cardinal.

Currently, the cardinals created by Bergoglio are 75 out of a total of 110 voters.

If at the next Consistory he creates eleven others, he will have reached the absolute majority of 86 at the Conclave. And in 2023, 11 more cardinal electors will turn 80, giving Bergoglio great room for maneuver confirm a clear majority of cardinals in accordance with the programs of his pontificate.

Who is Matteo Zuppi?

But, beyond these calculations: who is Cardinal Matteo Zuppi? He is a 66 year old Roman. Her father was a journalist, her mother the niece of the famous Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, a high figure in the Roman curia. He studied at the State University where he obtained a BA at the age of 22 before entering the major seminary.

The life of Zuppi, of whom everyone speaks well and who has a character that facilitates human communication, is intimately linked to the Community of Sant’Egidio, which today has a branch in Argentina and is the largest lay movement in the Churchsupplanting Communion and Liberation.

When he was a student, he befriended Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community, and for more than a decade he was parish priest of the Basilica of Trastevere, next to the central house of Sant’Egidio. He participated in the peace talks in mozambique successfully publicized by the community.

In 2012 he was made a bishop and three years later Argentina’s new pope promoted him to the bishopric of Bologna in central Italy. Jorge Bergoglio elevated him to the cardinalate in 2019.

“I have always devoted myself to the last, the marginalized in society: the poor, the migrants, the drug addicts,” he said.

During the last years endeavored to facilitate the integration of immigrants and to achieve a more welcoming treatment of homosexuals in the Church.

“When in our communities we begin to seriously see people as God sees them, then also gay people and everyone else will naturally begin to feel part of the community,” he wrote.

This year, Zuppi spoke at the May Day celebrations in Bologna and recited the funeral homily of European Parliament President David Sassoli, who was his long-time friend.

In Rome, Cardinal Zuppi grew up with friendships cultivated in the so-called “democratic Catholicism” to which Sassoli belonged and whose most important “ragazzi” ended up leading the center-left Democratic Party, prevailing over the former militants of the communist party disappeared. . One of them is Enrico Letta, the party secretary, a childhood friend of Zuppi.

As President of the Episcopal Conference of Italy, Zuppi will intervene on the main issues of public debate. It will be a big change because the national assembly of bishops has traditionally been in more conservative hands for decades.

Its most important immediate problem is the decision promised by the Italian bishops to open an investigation into thousands of cases of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, as several Catholic churches around the world have done.

Vatican correspondent

CB​

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