“Now the general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference will have to choose the new president,” the pope noted in the interview published on May 3. “I try to find one who wants to make a nice change. I prefer him to be a cardinal, to be authoritative.”
Zuppi and Lojudice are not, of course, the only cardinals in Italy. There is also Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome, among others. But he appears to be out of contention. Indeed, the possible appointment of Lojudice as president would represent a sort of revenge by Pope Francis against De Donatis.
It is widely rumored that the pope wanted Lojudice, then auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Rome, as vicar. But when the pope initiated a consultation of Rome’s priests, the great majority of clergy indicated that they favored De Donatis.
According to other rumors, Lojudice is favored over Zuppi. These assert that Zuppi lost some papal sympathy because of the way he applied the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, which effectively abolished the liberalization of the ancient rite of Mass admitted by Benedict XVI.
Unlike many other bishops, Zuppi offered a freer interpretation of the decree within his archdiocese, allowing celebrations of the traditional Mass with the only limitation of having to find a church that was not also a parish for the celebration.
While other bishops applied the pope’s provisions to the letter, the 66-year-old cardinal took a more conciliatory position. At the papal residence, the Casa Santa Marta, it is whispered that rumors that Zuppi was acting with an eye to a future conclave have reached Pope Francis’ ears. This is likely to have reduced the pope’s sympathy for the archbishop of Bologna, who is strongly linked to the influential Community of Sant’Egidio.