Following the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on December 31, 2022, conservatives within the Vatican are reportedly plotting a plan to oust current Pope Francis.
According to The Telegraph, Vatican conservatives are planning to place Pope Francis under "such stress" that the sitting Pope would be forced to resign.
One Italian cardinal told the Italian newspaper La Stampa, "The secret plan will be formulated on various axes and phases, but it will have one objective – to place the pontificate under such stress that Francis will have to resign."
The cardinal said that this campaign would depend on "the progressive weakening of the Holy Father as well as his doctrinal choices, which will create a great deal of discontent which can be used against him."
"The opponents of Francis know that right now they are in a minority, that they will need time both to win consensus and to weaken Bergoglio," he added, noting Francis’ previous name before becoming pontiff in 2013.
The 86-year-old Pope had previously stated that he would resign if his health were to deteriorate, though this resignation was thought to be unlikely while his predecessor was still alive, leading to the unprecedented event of three Popes living in the Vatican.
With Benedict now deceased, it has opened a door for conservatives, who oppose Pope Francis’ stance on issues ranging from abortion, homosexuality, celibacy for priests, capitalism, and communion for remarried divorcees, with some calling him a "communist," to start moving against him.
The cardinal added that some of the Pope’s opponents would be operating "in the shadows," while others would be more open in their criticisms of the Catholic Church’s leader.
One who has been vocal in his criticisms was Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who served as personal secretary to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
"In an interview with a German newspaper, he said that Francis’s decision to crack down on the use of the traditional Latin mass had 'broken the heart' of Pope Benedict," The Telegraph reported.
"It hit him pretty hard," he told Die Tagespost, calling the Latin mass "a spiritual treasure."
Gänswein said he was never able to reach a "climate of trust" with Francis.
Other conservative critics of the Pope include American cardinal Raymond Burke and German cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who was a friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict.
Proponents of Pope Francis have admitted that there is a growing rift in the Vatican between conservatives and progressives, with Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a Vatican department, saying "There are tensions, as there have always been in the history of the Church. It is not a monolithic block."
Others have insisted though that there is little prospect in the near future of Pope Francis resigning.
"He will resign if he is no longer able to deal with the challenges of his pontificate, but for now he keeps going," said Walter Kasper, a German cardinal.
"For the moment he is not ready to step down. It is obvious that there is a clash between progressives and conservatives, but we need to keep up the dialogue between different points of view."
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