Sunday 4 January 2015
Now in his late 70s, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, according to some reports from Rome, is showing his age and may not live long into his 80s. There are even dark hints that some of his Italian opponents in the Vatican are bent on mischief, as they might have been at the time of the strange, untimely death of Pope John Paul I in 1976, and still smarting at the disappearance of the ancient usage that the leader should be a native of their country. After the election of a Polish, followed by German and now – for heaven’s sake – an Argentinian pope, some Italian feathers are still ruffled.
Yet the tremendously vital but brief papacy of John XXIII in the early 1960s illustrated that a short five-year reign by the right man can produce new and very welcome currents of thought in an ancient institution. As the enormous political coup brought off last month when Francis and his men doused the flames of hostility that had been raging for half a century between Havana and Washington demonstrated, forceful and skilled Vatican diplomacy can bring amazing results.
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