Next month Pope Francis will celebrate his 79th birthday, and by all accounts he remains remarkably vigorous. A brief mini-drama in October about an alleged brain tumor turned out to be fantasy, and both in Rome and on the road he keeps up a pace that would devastate most ordinary mortals.
There’s no reason to believe his papacy is nearing an end, and every reason to think it’s full steam ahead.
On the other hand, Francis has dropped hints that his might be a relatively brief run, and he’s also spoken approvingly about the example set by Pope Benedict XVI in resigning. Given his capacity for surprise, it’s entirely possible he’ll blindside the world with a decision to step aside just when it’s least expected.
No matter how things play out, it’s never too early to have an eye on what might come next – in part because it speaks to the future of the Church, and, in part because, let’s face it, such speculation is just fun.
Over the weekend, we got an intriguing X-ray of where things might stand should a transition in the papacy suddenly beckon. It came in a Vatican statement confirming the 12 prelates elected at the recent Synod of Bishops on the family to the “Ordinary Council,” meaning the body that will oversee synod operations until the next general assembly.
Versions of these names had already been reported, but the Vatican delayed making them official until Pope Francis decided on three additional figures to add by personal appointment.
Read more at Crux.