Altar egos: Backlash on Pope begins

New Zealand Herald

Pope Francis is more popular than any modern pope but is upsetting Vatican insiders. Peter Popham says the backlash has begun and asks who will come out on top in the struggle for the heart of the Catholic church

Pope Francis, who in his first Mass of the new year called for an end to war and slavery, has put a spring in the step of the Catholic Church since his election nearly two years ago. But now the backlash has begun.

It started, coincidentally or not, two days after a recent, devastating assault by the pontiff on the vices of the senior Vatican officials who surround him.

Addressing the Curia in the magnificent setting of the Clementina Hall, the first Latin American Pope took no prisoners. Itemising the faults of the senior prelates he was addressing, he listed “feelings of immortality, immunity or indispensability, deriving from a pathology of power” and what he called “spiritual Alzheimer’s” in which Vatican bosses lose their memory of “meeting the Lord” and “depend entirely … on their passions, their whims and manias … becoming slaves of idols”. He described how “the terrorism of gossip” can “kill the reputation of our colleagues and brothers in cold blood”. Other ailments included having “a hardened heart”, “a funereal face”, and being “too rigid, tough and arrogant”.

The reaction came two days later. In the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Vittorio Messori, Italy’s best-known Catholic writer, wrote of his feelings of “perplexity” about the Pope, and the fact that “even some of the cardinals who were among his electors” were having second thoughts about him.

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