American Vaticanist John Allen.

American Vaticanist John Allen.

American Vaticanist John Allen (photo) has written that, if in Rome “the most talked-about piece of rhetoric during the holiday season was Pope Francis’ December 22 blast at the Roman Curia,” then “a close second” was “Vittorio Messori’s own December 24 fusillade at the Pope, published in the Italian paper of record, Corriere della Sera.”

As Allen put it: “Under the headline, ‘Doubts about the turning point of Pope Francis,’ Messori wrote that ‘my evaluation of this papacy oscillates continually between adhesion and perplexity,’ and also asserted that Francis’ unpredictability has caused even ‘some of the cardinals who were among his electors to have second thoughts.’”

Though Messori did not name any repentant cardinals, Allen writes, still “his claim has been taken seriously” because “he is Italy’s most famous living Catholic writer, the man whose 1984 interview book with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report, made the future Pope a star.” He continues: “In other words, he’s the kind of person in a position to know what at least some segment of the College of Cardinals is thinking…”

Not only is Messori “credible,” Allen argues, but, because “Francis is an assiduous reader and quite wired into Italian conversation,” Allen is persuaded that Pope Francis himself “has certainly read Messori’s piece.”

In the end, Allen says, this story shows there are in Italy and around the world many different ways of viewing Francis. Along these lines, Allen makes mention of a story that has appeared recently in a number of Italian papers: that there is actually a “Pope Francis look-alike” in Rome “who sometimes is mistaken for the real deal.” He adds: “Supposedly on December 22, the doppelganger was spotted near the Circus Maximus in a blue subcompact car at the precise moment the real Francis was making his Curia speech.” And Allen then adds: “Honestly, there are moments when one hears or sees something from the Pope and wonders if maybe it’s that imposter, because it’s just so difficult to reconcile with other aspects of Francis’ record. Messori wrote that he could have gone on cataloguing contradictions and one actually wishes he would have, because it would be analytically useful to have a complete list…”

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