Pope Francis has fueled speculation about his future in the papacy after announcing his visit to L’Aquila

Rome – Pope Francisco He fueled rumors about the future of the papacy by announcing that he would visit the central Italian city of L’Aquila in August to attend a festival initiated by the Pope. Celestine Vone of the few rabbis who have quit before Benedict XVI He left office in 2013.

Italian and Catholic media have published unsourced speculation that Francis, 85, may have plans to follow in Benedict’s footsteps given his growing mobility problems, which have forced him to use a wheelchair over the past month.

These rumors gained momentum last week when Francis announced the creation of 21 new cardinals, which were scheduled to take place on August 27. Sixteen of these cardinals are under the age of eighty and can vote at a secret meeting to choose Francis’ successor.

Once they join the ranks of church leaders, Francis will have added 83 of the 132 voting age cardinals. While there are no guarantees as to what these cardinals might vote for, the numbers increase the chances of choosing a successor who shares Francis’ pastoral priorities.

When the ecclesiastical council announced on August 27, Francis also announced that he would hold two-day meetings the following week to brief the cardinals on his latest Apostolic Constitution to reform the Vatican bureaucracy. The document, which goes into effect on Sunday, allows women to head Vatican offices, imposes limits on the tenures of priests from the Vatican’s staff and puts the Holy See as an institution at the service of local churches, not the other way around.

Pope Francis was elected in 2013 with a mandate to reform the Roman Curia. Now that the nine-year project was presented and at least partly implemented, in such a way that the main task of Francis as Pope was completed.

All this means that Saturday’s routine announcement of a pastoral visit to L’Aquila has raised more speculation than other circumstances.

The date was clear: the Vatican and the rest of Italy are usually on vacation in August to mid-September, and a few nonessential businesses remain open. The convocation of a congress in mid-August to create new cardinals, and to gather the religious for two days to discuss the implementation of the reform and to make a symbolic pastoral visit, suggested that Francis could have thought of something more than the day-to-day activism of his office.

“With today’s news that he (the Pope) is going to L’Aquila in the middle of the August church, everything has become a lot more interesting.”The Vatican expert tweeted Robert McKeanwhich links to an article in La Croix International about rumors surrounding the future of the papacy.

The cathedral in L’Aquila houses the tomb of Celestine V, a hermit pope who resigned after five months in 1294, overshadowed by the task. Benedict visited L’Aquila in 2009, after it was devastated by an earthquake, and prayed at Celestine’s grave, where he left his robbery.

No one appreciated the significance of this gesture at the time. But Four years later, 85-year-old Benedict followed in Celestine’s footsteps and resigned, saying he no longer had the strength of mind and body to take on the duties of the papacy.

The Vatican announced on Saturday that Francis will visit L’Aquila to celebrate Mass on August 28 and open the “Holy Door” in the cathedral where Celestino is buried. The dates coincide with the celebration of Yom Kippur in the temple, which Celestino established in a papal bull.

No pope has traveled to L’Aquila since then to close the annual ceremony, which celebrates the sacrament of forgiveness that Francis so cherishes.The Cardinal, the current Archbishop of L’Aquila, pointed out Giuseppe Petrucci.

“We are confident that everyone, especially those affected by conflicts and internal divisions, can (come) and find the path of peace and solidarity”He said in a statement announced the visit.

Francis praised Benedict’s decision to step down, saying it “opens the door” for future popes to do the same. At first he predicted that his papacy would be short, two or five years.

Nine years later, Francisco has shown no sign of wanting to quit, and he still has important projects in progress.

In addition to his upcoming trips this year to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Canada and Kazakhstan, he has scheduled a grand meeting of bishops from around the world in 2023 to discuss the growing decentralization of the Catholic Church, as well as the implementation of his reforms.

But Francisco was held back by strained ligaments in his right knee, making walking painful and difficult. He told friends he did not want to have surgery, due to his reaction to anesthesia last July, when 13 inches of his large intestine was removed.

This week, one of his closest friends and advisors, the Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez MaradiagaTalk of the papacy’s resignation or the end of the papacy of Francis is baseless, he said, calling them “optical illusions” in comments to Religión Digital, a Spanish-language Catholic website.

Christopher PellettoA church historian at Keene University in Union, New Jersey, noted that most Vatican experts expect Francis to resign at some point, but not before Benedict’s death. The 95-year-old pope emeritus is in delicate physical condition but remains conscious and receives occasional visitors at his home in the Vatican Gardens.

“There will be no honorary doors hanging around.”Bellitto said in an email. Referring to Francis’s planned visit to L’Aquila, he suggested not drawing too many conclusions, noting that almost everyone missed Benedict’s gesture in 2009.

“I don’t remember much of the news that Benedict’s visit in 2009 made us think he would resign.”He said, pointing out that Francis’ pastoral visit to L’Aquila could just be a pastoral visit.

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