Pope Francis planning his succession through cardinal appointments

While some observers have seen the consistory and two days of meetings Pope Francis held in late August with 197 cardinals as a pre-conclave preparing the way for the election of a new pontiff in the not-too-distant future, Vatican observer Jean-Marie Guénois sees the pope preparing methodically to ensure the continuity of his line (Le Figaro, August 26). Guénois writes that Pope Francis is a practical man who is leaving all options open depending on his state of health—including that of remaining till the end of his terrestrial life. Precisely the pope’s health and his age have led some cardinals to think that he will not be able to continue for many years, and that the recent consistory thus offered the opportunity to become acquainted with and assess the potential of other participants, reports Loup Besmond de Senneville (La Croix International, Sept. 1). A European cardinal “admitted that he has had his aides draw up a file on each cardinal.”

Source: The Dialog.

But Pope Francis is carefully preparing for his succession in order maximize the likelihood that his successor will continue on the same track. Since cardinals under the age of 80 elect the pope, the way to achieve this aim is to select a number of new cardinals, something that Pope Francis has been doing at a faster pace than his predecessors. Moreover, while John Paul II and Benedict XVI made a point of selecting cardinals with various views, including some opposite to their own, in order to reflect the diversity of the Catholic Church, Francis is selecting men who appear willing to support his reforms and who show a strong pastoral orientation. Francis also picks some prelates with different profiles (e.g., theologians), but all of them happen to be above 80 and thus not among those who will elect the next pope. Currently, out of 132 cardinals who qualify as electors, 83 have been chosen by Pope Francis. Forty-two percent of them come from Europe, 18 percent from Latin America, 17 percent from Asia and Oceania, 12 percent from Africa, and 11 percent from North America.