Papal confidant Father Antonio Spadaro SJ says the next pope “wont be able to go back” on Francis’ reforms.

– Successor won’t be able to ignore “seeds” planted by Francis

Whoever the next pontiff is, he won’t be able to ignore the “seeds” sown by the Argentine pope during his term of office, Spadaro, the editor of the semi-official Vatican journal La Civiltà Cattolica, told Herder Korrespondenz in an interview for that publication’s August issue.

Francis’ successor “won’t be able to go back” when the Bergoglian pontificate has come to its close, Spadaro insisted, adding: “He will continue to move forward”.

– For Francis true reform is discernment in the light of the Holy Spirit

What, then, for Spadaro do Francis’ reforms to the Church consist of?

The Jesuit journalist and theologian surprised by admitting that this Pope does not have an abstract theological reform program points of which he is gradually ticking off during his time in office.

Contrary to what many Catholics think, “he has not set himself a government plan for his pontificate which would have to be worked through”, Spadaro explained.

That’s not to say, the editor of La Civilità Cattolica added, that the Pope hasn’t achieved any reforms at all during his seven years to date on the Chair of St. Peter: only that his way of going about those reforms is different.

For Francis, Spadaro said, true reform consists in discernment in the light of the Holy Spirit, and “it is in this spirit that he proceeds, listening and meditating”.

The difference between the bureaucrats of the world and the pope is tellingly illustrated by where the latter makes his decisions: during his morning devotions in his chapel, according to Spadaro, and not at his desk.

What’s more, when Francis has an idea for reform, he does not simply put it into practice, but instead prefers to pray about it and wait for spiritual confirmation, Spadaro continued.

If the Pope does not receive the backing of the Holy Spirit for a reform idea, he does not consider the proposal mature, the priest and journalist explained. But in those cases, Francis also does not foreclose on further discussions on the issue and does not exclude anything, according to his confidant.

In those ideas when the inspiration for reform is not yet ripe, the Pope says “ket us go forward, let us continue to think about it! But he does not make a final decision”, Spadaro emphasised, citing as an example of that strategy the ongoing debate about the ordination to the priesthood of viri probati, married “men of proven virtue”, stemming from the preparations for last October’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican.

– Criticisms of “traditionalist or hyper-conservative media” that “distort Benedict’s teaching authority”

In his conversation with Herder Korrespondenz, Spadaro also touched on the relationship between Francis and his predecessor as Pope, Benedict XVI: a relationship Spadaro said is marked by mutual respect and solidarity.

That mutual esteem, however, often comes under threat from certain circles in the Church who try to instrumentalise the emeritus pope and play him off against the reigning one, Spadaro lamented.

“Traditionalist or hyper-conservative media distort Benedict’s teaching authority. One must feel sorry for him above all, because in this way his reputation is in some way soiled”, lamented the Jesuit.

Though Spadaro is one of the most-sought after interpreters of the current pontificate, he insisted to Herder Korrespondenz that he is neither Francis’ advisor nor his ghostwriter.

Beyond the occasional “lively” exchange and debate between pontiff and priest, Spadaro “in no way” acts “neither as advisor, as author of his texts or anything else, absolutely not”, the Jesuit clarified.

More insights from Antonio Spadaro, on Novena:

‘Pope whisperer’ Antonio Spadaro calls on faithful to activate Catholic “antibodies” against populist exploitation of coronavirus scare

Antonio Spadaro, on Pope’s attitude to debate over married priests: “Transcending dialectic oppositions is one of the fundamental action criteria for the pontiff”

Close papal advisor Antonio Spadaro explains Francis’ response to fears of US-Iran ‘World War III’

‘Pope whisperer’ Antonio Spadaro blasts Synod critics for racism, defence of “political-economic interests”

Antonio Spadaro laments Salvini’s rosary stunts: “The exploitation of religion seems to know no decency”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.