Andrea Tornielli, who has been described as the Pope’s favourite journalist, has suggested that opposition to Francis is linked to Vladimir Putin.
Tornielli makes the suggestion in a piece co-written with Giacomo Galeazzi for the Italian newspaper La Stampa. It is headlined “Catholics who are anti-Francis but love Putin”.
The article quotes sociologist Massimo Introvigne as saying: “It is the mythical idealization of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is presented as a ‘good’ leader in contrast to the ‘bad’ leader, the Pope, because of his stance on homosexual people, Muslims and immigrants. Russian foundations that have strong ties with Putin co-operate with the anti-Francis opposition.”
Tornielli has published a book-length interview with Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy. A follow-up is expected.
In his and Galeazzi’s piece, they describe various organisations and individuals who have expressed scepticism about the current pontificate, explaining that “people and groups that are very different among them” are united by their unease about Pope Francis.
Tornielli and Galeazzi interview historian Roberto Mattei, the president of Fondazione Lepanto in Rome, who says: “The Church is going through one the biggest moments of chaos in its history and the Pope is one of the causes … This chaos is above all to do with the Pope’s magisterium. Francis is not the solution but part of the problem.”
Mattei adds that opposition is not just expressed by traditionalists, but by “bishops and theologians who were trained according to the Ratzinger and Wojtyla schools of thought”.
The article also mentions the John Paul II institute, whose senior staff have recently been replaced with figures more sympathetic to Pope Francis; priests and theologians who have asked for clarification of Amoris Laetitia; and writers and journalists such as Alessandro Gnocchi, who believes the Pope “is systematically surrendering the Church to the world, the Church is becoming worldly. His pontificate is based on the brutal handling of power. Never has the faith been so debased.”
Tornielli and Galeazzi believe that the opposition to the Pope is partly theological and partly political. The political opposition especially concerns the Vatican’s increasing efforts to improve diplomatic relations with China. One interviewee, the historian Agostino Giovagnoli, mentions in particular the website Asia News.
Fr Bernardo Cervellera, the editor-in-chief of Asia News, has responded strongly to the article, describing it as “false”, “unfounded” and a “lie” to list his website as opposing the Pope.
Fr Cervellera says his website reports “all aspects, be they complex or contradictory, of a given event” and that they cannot ignore China’s underground Christians, who are suffering for their faith “and who now, suddenly, have disappeared from public concerns”.
Fr Cervellera says the La Stampa article, by assembling a “blacklist” of opponents, actually does not help the Pope: “You can also betray a person with too much applause,” he writes.