Lyndsay Freer: Cardinal factions line up in Rome

The excitement is increasing around St Peter’s Basilica as people arrive for this historic time and discuss the perceived needs of the church and the strengths or weaknesses of candidates. It is recognised that much is at stake in this conclave, perhaps more than ever before.

A number of candidates’ names keep surfacing with the Vatican-watchers and in the international media, yet we are reminded of the old saying that “he who enters the conclave as a pope leaves it as a cardinal”.

There is a strong belief here in Rome that with no clear frontrunner, the process is likely to take longer than the two days of the last papal election in 2005. This will be the 10th conclave to be held in the past 100 years. Of the last nine, only two took five days but most lasted for two, including that which elected Pope Benedict in 2005.

It could boil down to a choice between a candidate backed by the Roman Curia cardinals and their allies, and a candidate put forward by cardinals intent on radically reforming the Curia after tensions between these two factions.

People familiar with the workings of the Vatican are openly discussing the crisis of governance that has been uncovered or at least brought to the surface by the recent “Vatileaks”, which points to serious trouble in the Curia.

That famous English priest, theologian and writer of the early 20th century, Monsignor Ronald Knox, when asked why he didn’t visit Rome, said, “He who travels in the barque of Peter had better not look too closely into the engine room.” Continue reading 

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