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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Pope's Council of Cardinal Advisers made an extraordinary pledge of adhesion to him and to "his magisterium" at the start of their meetings in Rome Monday.
A Vatican press release dated February 13 and titled "Declaration of the Council of Cardinals" reads, "In relation to recent events the Council of Cardinals pledges its full support for the Pope's work, assuring him at the same time of its adhesion and loyalty to the figure of the Pope and to his Magisterium."
The official Vatican bulletin summed up the first day of meetings between Pope Francis and his nine personal advisors. The unusual "declaration" caused speculation in the media as to what "recent events" prompted the rather extraordinary proclamation.
Some speculate the cause of the exceptional attestation of loyalty to the Pope by his "Gang of Nine" is owing to the recent poster campaign on February 4 — whereby dozens of posters were found around Rome — questioning such things as the pope's heavy hand on the Franciscan Friars of Mary Immaculate and on the Order of Malta. The posters asked Pope Francis, "Where's your mercy?" Similar instances of this somewhat jaded "spoofing" are becoming more commonplace in the media and other examples of privately circulated satire.
Another venue of this satirical criticism was found in the fake version of the Vatican's paper — L'Osservatore — appearing one week after the posters. It seemingly reported that Pope Francis had finally answered the widely publicized "dubia" penned by the four cardinals with a "yes" and a "no."
The fact that "dubia," which askes for a correct interpretation of the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia, goes unanswered is seemingly the underlying issue causing major unrest in the Vatican. Seasoned Vatican news correspondent, Ed Pentin, reported that this problem itself is causing cardinals to take sides — either with those who follow canon law forbidding admittance of active adulterers to the sacraments or those who favor setting canon law aside.
In December of last year, Ed Pentin reported:
[A]lmost all the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia have remained silent, neither supporting the [four] cardinals, nor, more importantly, coming out in support of the Pope and his decision not to respond [to their dubia]. ... If silence is taken to mean consent for the dubia, then one could therefore argue that the vast majority are in favor of the four cardinals.
Pentin went on to speak of the heightened tension in the Vatican over this issue. "[F]or months, one has heard from one significant part of the Curia that they feel great unease about what is happening. The phrases 'reign of terror' and 'Vatican martial law' are frequently bandied around."
The Council of Cardinals explicitly pledged loyalty to the magisterium of Pope Francis. But in the absence of an authoritative and objective answer to the dubia, the four cardinals and like-minded prelates can not yet follow suit.