Pope Francis has stacked the next conclave — but will it matter?

by | Sep 25, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — By the end of the day on Sept. 30, Pope Francis will have crossed an important threshold: He will have appointed enough cardinals to have created a supermajority at the next conclave, the gathering of cardinals that will select his successor.Taken at face value, Francis’ statistical watershed suggests he has ensured that the next pope will share his style and vision. But the reality is far more complex. History shows that conclaves exercise a logic of their own that owes little to the pope who devised them.
After all, Francis, who is seen as a liberal reformer, was elected by a conclave for the most part assembled by Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, both staunch conservatives. 
“The next pope won’t necessarily share his views with Francis 100%,” said Massimo Borghesi, a philosopher at the University of Perugia and author of “The Mind of Pope Francis: Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s Intellectual Journey,” in a recent interview. The next pope is likely to respect Francis’ bent for dialogue and “a missionary approach,” Borghesi said, but the conclave is likely to consider other qualities as important, and many factors will decide who is chosen.
“College of Cardinals Appointing Pope, 2013” Sources: Publicly available Vatican data, Wikipedia, independent RNS reporting. RNS graphic
Speculation about the next pope is still relatively quiet: Francis remains mentally present as ever, and though …

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