Pope Francis welcomed his first crowd to the Vatican for six months as he delivered remarks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The audience, during which the Pope announced a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon, was held in the San Damaso courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The event represents a first step towards normality in the Vatican, where the Pope has forged a reputation for intimate exchanges with visitors. Although popular, Francis endured years of division within the Catholic Church, which one expert says could lead to an irreparable split.
He even quoted an anonymous member of the Vatican bureaucracy as saying that Francis’ papacy “is unraveling.”
While Benedict has sought to reject any suggestion of a division, Mr Cornwell says the division has persisted nonetheless.
He said: “What makes this prospect of division within the Church more severe and much riskier than the usual quarrels, is the presence of two popes, both residing in the Vatican, each with their own faithful and loud supporters.
“The liberals have Francis, but the conservatives have his predecessor, Benedict XVI. If Francis is the living and reigning pope, Benedict is his shadow, the undead emeritus pope. ”
When Benedict XVI resigned from his post in 2013, he did not leave Vatican City as many expected.
He stayed put, still accepting the title “His Holiness,” which offered “encouragement” to criticism of Francis, Mr. Cornwell says in his article for Vanity Fair.
It has also included opposition from right-wing politicians in Italy, like Matteo Salvini, who has made a controversial figure with his policies.
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A tweet from Salvini’s report in May 2016 read: “The Pope says migrants are not a danger. It doesn’t matter! And he was also pictured in 2016 holding a shirt saying ‘Benedict is my Pope’.
Within the Catholic Church, Benedict even seemed to criticize his successor in an essay.
Benedict requested that his name be removed from a book on priestly celibacy just one day before its publication, after the text was viewed as a direct criticism of Pope Francis.
The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” included an essay written by Benedict, and he was therefore listed as a co-author of the book that opposed Francis’ policy.
Benedict XVI’s personal secretary said: “The Pope Emeritus knew that the Cardinal was preparing a book and sent him a text on the priesthood, authorizing him to use it as he wanted.
“But he didn’t approve a project for a co-authored book and he didn’t see or authorize the cover. It is a misunderstanding that does not raise questions about Cardinal Sarah [co-author of the book] sincerity. “