Whispers in the Loggia
Two years ago, Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga was licking his wounds on the Roman scene.
After a power play orchestrated by the Roman Curia, the Honduran cardinal’s top collaborator at Caritas Internationalis – the charity confederation’s secretary-general, Lesley Anne Knight – had been denied a second term by the Vatican, for reasons that the Caritas board wouldn’t disclose, but greeted with stated “incomprehension.” Widely seen as the most formidable laywoman in a global-level church post, Knight’s allies later portrayed the British-Zimbabwean chief’s black-balling in the context of her gender, lack of orders and outspokenness at high levels in defending her agency’s work.
Yet now, as only a transition of Popes can bring about, it’s suddenly a new world: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Salesian confrere with whom Rodriguez shared little else in common, is 17 days from retiring… and this week, the Honduran’s restoration to center stage (and then some) completes itself as Don Óscar takes the principal place alongside Pope Francis at the first summit of Bergoglio’s advisory commission of eight cardinals as the group’s designated “coordinator.”
Believed to have been the key driver behind the Latin American bloc that put the Argentine on this Conclave’s map in the first ballot, it’s not a stretch to say that Rodríguez, 70 – a dynamic polyglot with three decades’ experience on the global stage – now enjoys the role of papal “shadow,” and the near-limitless portfolio that comes with it, which in times past had been the province of the Secretary of State. Indeed, unburdened with the minutiae of running a dicastery as he cris-crosses the globe, perhaps it isn’t even too much to cast the first of the “Super-Cardinals” as Francis’ “Vice-Pope”… at least, with one key difference from before: unlike the Benedict-Bertone tag-team, the new Pope has no qualms about being his own linebacker.
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