Will the Synod be an Unofficial Papal Audition?

In case you didn’t notice, the process of choosing the next pope has begun. No, Pope Francis is still going strong and the cardinals didn’t slip back into the Vatican under cover of night and immediately convene in conclave.

But that doesn’t mean the selection process isn’t happening. Look closely and you can see it at work in the sort of speculation and maneuvering that typically precede a papal election.

In discussing this subject, it’s important to say at the start that Pope Francis looks to be in good health for a man his age — 87 before the year is out. Yes, he uses a cane and sometimes a wheelchair to get around, but many elderly people do the same. And he keeps up a grueling schedule of travel, meetings and special events that many younger men would hesitate to tackle.

Note, too, that although a few years ago he was talking about resignation as someday a possibility for him, more recently he has taken to saying that being pope is a lifelong job that he means to see through to the end.

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