The 66-year-old cardinal’s words at the book launch were cautious. He began by reflecting on the book’s title. He then focused on the Statio Orbis of March 27, 2020: the solitary prayer in St. Peter’s Square in which Pope Francis asked for an end to the pandemic. Zuppi said that on that occasion, “for the first time, Ecclesialese — the language spoken among us priests — became the common language.”
Speaking of the crisis in the Church, Zuppi said that “we can spend a lifetime arguing among ourselves, fueling an internal conflict. But the point is that it is a crisis, generative of something new.”
He stressed that John XXIII was considered “a simpleton, who seemed to impoverish the greatness of the Church,” and that Benedict XVI “defined himself as a humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard.”
In short, Francis is not, according to Zuppi, a pope who is diminishing the institution’s importance. Rather, he is giving it a new impetus. So much so, that there is “anything but an air of resignation,” Zuppi said. “In the many decisions he has made, and in the processes he has initiated, there is a great awareness and sense of the future.”
He added: “Pope Francis tells us that there is so much to do now, and he helps us not to have a renunciatory attitude, as a retreating minority. His significant reform is pastoral and missionary conversion.”
“He allows us to place ourselves in an evangelical, straightforward way, close to the people, and shows us some priorities for a Church that speaks to the heart. He helps us to be more Church, in a world that makes identity fade.”
There was also talk of the Zan bill, a proposed anti-homophobia law discussed in the Italian Senate. The Holy See presented a formal diplomatic note to the Italian state, highlighting that the bill violated the Concordat between the Holy See and Italy as part of the freedom of education.
It was not an opinion of the Holy See, but rather a diplomatic initiative to avoid the violation of a treaty. One of the panelists, Peter Gomez, director of IlFattoquotidiano.it, suggested erroneously that the Holy See expresses an opinion and the secular state is free to make its own decisions. But this was not the focus of the discussion.
Zuppi has repeatedly refused to address the controversy publicly. Many have interpreted this as a tactical move. The general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference is currently discussing who should be its next president. Zuppi is one of the leading candidates to succeed Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Città della Pieve.
Then there is the question of the next conclave that continues to hang over Zuppi. It was the author of the book himself, Francesco Grana, who sought to damp down any speculation. He explained that, despite its arresting title, the book was not presenting a manifesto.
He referred to a book recently published by Andrea Riccardi, founder of the community with which Zuppi is closely associated.
(Story continues below)
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“Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, wrote the book ‘The Church burns.’ And if the Church burns, how can we not ask ourselves about the papacy of the future?” he asked.