The opposition to Pope Francis was Marco Politi’s theme on a recent UK lecture tour which took him to Heythrop, the Centre for Catholic Studies in Durham and Newman University in Birmingham, and then to Dublin. Politi quoted the Pope’s words to an Argentinian friend: “I only ask the Lord that this change will endure, and not be like a light that suddenly goes out”.
A survey of opinion in the Roman Curia by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera had found that 20 per cent backed Pope Francis, 10 per cent were opposed to him, and 70 per cent were waiting for his successor.
Politi quoted the founder of the St Egido Community, Andrea Riccardi, a historian who measures his words. According to Riccardi, no Pope in the last 100 years had faced such direct criticism from bishops and clergy as Pope Francis. Politi instanced Cardinal Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Dismissing Pope Francis’s ground-breaking visit to Lund in Sweden for the commemorations of Martin Luther’s reformation, for example, Müller had retorted that there was nothing to celebrate.
Politi referred to his most recent book, Pope Francis Among the Wolves. He recalled the story of the wolf of Gubbio which St Francis had tamed. It would take longer, Politi thought, to tame the wolves in the Vatican and among cardinals and clergy. There was a supreme paradox. Francis had won over the world, but had not converted a significant portion of the Church. What were local bishops’ conferences doing, Politi asked, to support Francis and promote his approach? Where was the movement among the laity such as had been so evident at Vatican II? Here was Francis’s greatest opponent: inertia.