Vatican has no automatic transfer of powers with pope in hospital

The organization of the universal Catholic Church has a precise hierarchy, but there is no such thing as a “vice pope,” who steps in when the reigning pontiff is traveling abroad, ill or under anesthesia.

Although hospitalized since July 4, when he underwent a three-hour surgery on his colon, Pope Francis is still the supreme pontiff and fully in charge.

Some news outlets, like the Italian agency ANSA, reported that with the pope in Rome’s Gemelli hospital, “the cardinal camerlengo,” or chamberlain,” has the task of administering the temporal goods of the Holy See.”

The current camerlengo is U.S. Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.

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