Front Running Cardinals In The Next Conclave: Why Sarah Is Not Among Them

Contrary to some expectations, Francis has not made significant "changes" on celibacy, female ordinations or homosexuality, London journalist Damian Thompson observed in a 30-minutes talk with Edward Pentin about his new book The Next Pope (, July 7).

Thompson notes, however, that Francis is encouraging liberals who wish radical changes,

“It's as if he is deliberately paving the way for a conclave of which the forces of reaction [= Catholics] will be decisively defeated and a new pope will emerge who will make the liberal changes that Francis could have made - but for reasons nobody really understands, has chosen not to.”

Many Cardinals Have Enough Of Francis

Pentin expects that if the next conclave happens sooner rather than later, a more "conservative" pope could be elected. He observes much unease among the cardinals who have “enough” of this pontificate. They want that the papacy gets back into safer hands, and are sitting out the current situation. The have been harbouring their concerns for a number of years, but do not speak about them.

Noticing that Francis has already chosen 67 of the electing Cardinals, Pentin believes that not all of them would wish to continue with another Francis.

Thompson objects that Francis is packing the college of cardinals with like-minded people, like Chicago Cardinal Cupich, and is trying to ensure that a "liberal" is elected after him.

Qualified "conservative" candidates like the quickly removed Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput don’t get a red hat, because Francis doesn't make "traditionalist" cardinals, Thompson says.

Cardinal Parolin “Only Obeying Orders”?

Thompson and Pentin talk about individual papabiles. Secretary of State Pietro Parolin is for Pentin not a Prime Minister but rather a cabinet secretary who executes Francis' wishes.

Pentin sparks the thesis that Parolin may be "more orthodox" than expected but simply follows orders, including the disastrous China deal. Pentin mentions that Hong Kong Cardinal Zen thinks it's the other way around.

Thompson replies that Pentin's explanation does "not excuse" Parolin who is personally involved in the betrayal of the Chinese Church, the ruination of the Order of Malta, and shady property deals.

Cardinal Sarah’s Profile

Thomson calls Cardinal Robert Sarah faithful, intellectual and conservative. He could only become the next pope if the next conclave takes place soon, as Sarah is 75 years old.

Sarah would never say anything disloyal about Francis. He is the favourite candidate of those critical of Francis’ pontificate.

Thompson mentions Sarah's ferocious criticism of Western Capitalism, his "apocalyptic vision" of what is happening in the West, that liberal greedy elites are whipping out all traces of Christianity paving thus the way for a decadent and barbaric civilisation.

Almost unique among cardinals, Sarah opposes mass immigration into West countries because it damages both, the countries of origin and the countries of destination.

He has firm ideas about the liturgy and supports Benedict XVI’s concept that the Old Mass and the New Rite are both a central part of the Church’s heritage.

However, Sarah has not made an impact on the Congregation for Divine Worship which he is leading, because Francis has not allowed him to do so. The congregation is effectively controlled by Sarah's secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche. Thompson calls Roche an ambitious prelate who climbs up the career ladder.

For Thompson, Sarah’s ineffectiveness in his congregation and his age make him an unlikely front runner for the next conclave.

Other Candidates: Erdő, Tagle, Zuppi

Pentin believes that another leading candidate for the "conservatives" is Budapest Cardinal Péter Erdő, who is relatively unknown.

About [pro-gay] Cardinal Luis Tagle he says that he is good in engaging with young people [- which may not be the first requisit a pope may need]. Like Francis, Tagle would not confront moral issues but "soften" them and "reach out" to those who find the issues "difficult.”

A source told Pentin that at the [infantile] Youth Synod, Tagle was acclaimed by other bishops.

As matters of concern, Pentin identifies Tagle's liturgical stances and his closeness to the Bologna School which admits and welcomes that Vatican II created a new church. This makes him a "liberal" candidate, Pentin adds.

Thompson then names [pro-gay] Bologna Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi calling him a “Francis continuity candidate" but also a "nice" person "which is one of the things cardinals are looking for after years of tensions.”

Pentin believes that Zuppi would become Francis II. He is “friendly to everybody,” “a people pleaser,” “has even celebrated the Tridentine Latin Mass,” and “takes a lot of boxes for a lot of people.”