The Vatican Is Trying To Subdue A Growing Divide Between Cardinals

College of cardinals gathers in Vatican

Photo: Pool / Getty

The Vatican’s College of Cardinals imposed a media blackout this week for the upcoming meetings to find the next Pope.At first the blackout was thought to be a reaction to reports in the Italian press containing details of secret Vatican talks, including discussion of an ongoing scandal involving infighting and allegations of corruption in the Vatican Bank.

New reports, however, suggest the blackout is also meant to subdue a growing feud between cardinals.

Until the ban on talking to the press went out, American cardinals had been giving daily talks, skirting the Catholic Church’s strict secrecy laws. The Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz observes that they may have been the real target of the ban.

There appears to be a culture clash between the brash, PR-savvy American cardinals and the closed ranks of the Italians, observes The New York Times. There may be a political clash as well, between the traditionalists based in the Vatican City and reformers in the U.S. and Germany, according to the AP.

It also appears that Italian cardinals may have been angered by American cardinals calling for a slow, steady papal conclave, and arguing that all cardinals must be present before the conclave can begin. After all a longer papal conclave has been seen as favouring cardinals from outside the Vatican.

“Some people in the curia wanted an early election because it would benefit the front-runners, and it would benefit the curial cardinals who already know everybody in the College of Cardinals,” said the Reverend Tom Reese, author of the book “Inside the Vatican,” told The Washington Post.

A longer election process would help “unknown” and “younger cardinals,” Reese observed. In theory, this may help candidates from outside Europe, such as outside favourite Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley or Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

Right now three of the top five favourites on betting site Paddy Power are Italian, and it is suspected that Italian cardinals want another Italian Pope after two consecutive non-Italian Popes, and they certainly hold sway. 20-eight Italian cardinals will be voting for the new Pope — more than are in the entire continent of North America.

If this was the Italian cardinals’ plan, however, it may have backfired.

Italian newspaper La Stampa writes that the “Roman faction” may have created a “dramatic boomerang effect” with the ban. The paper writes that even Dino Boffo, a Vatican insider and a prominent supporter of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, has suggested that a “New World” candidate might now be chosen.

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