The former head of the Vatican and his supporters would “not be happy” with the current Pope’s decision to support any move on same-sex couples within the church, according to Lynda Telford – author of ‘Women of the Vatican – Female Power in a Male World’. Benedict and Francis have endured a reportedly bitter relationship since the former stood down as Pope seven years ago, in an unprecedented move that rocked the Catholic church. This meant that unlike previous occasions, Benedict was able to continue to exert his conservative agenda on senior figures in the Vatican, which directly opposes that of the more liberal leaning Francis.
Disputes between the pair have often erupted in public, and topics such as same-sex couples and abortion routinely see the two men’s views and opinions completely at odds with one another.
Critics of Benedict say this has frustrated Francis, who many had hoped would help revitalise the church, bringing it in line with the modern world.
But the anger felt by Benedict over Francis’ comments backing “civil unions” in the church, would no doubt have sparked among the former Catholic head, and his supporters.
Ms Telford told Express.co.uk: “Francis has finally stepped out, which emphasises how much Benedict has stepped back.
“As Francis has never been quite so open before, I’m sure there will be quite a few people not happy about how open the Pope has been with his views.”
She added: “He’s really made it clear where his concerns lie, and that should reassure many people who have been ignored or living too long in the shadows.”
The controversy began after comments made by Francis appeared in the new documentary ‘Francesco’, which was unveiled at the Rome Film Festival and reviews the Pope’s life.
Within the film, Francis said that “homosexual people have a right to be in a family”, something traditionalists such as Benedict are ardently against.
In the past, many have felt that Francis would have pushed forward a more progressive agenda to make the church more accessible to modern day worshippers.
The relaxing of confession laws in Italy as it was gripped by coronavirus earlier this year was seen by some as a move that showed Francis’ liberalism, and many had hoped aspects of Catholicism such as celibacy and contraception would be next on his agenda.
Pope Benedict was the head of the church between 2005 and 2013, before he stood down due to the mental stresses of the role and the deterioration of his health.
The move was unprecedented as he became the first Pope to resign since the 1400s, but his decision saw Pope Francis become the new leader of the Catholic church.
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Many have argued that while he is still alive, Pope Benedict is able to exert an unusual amount of authority over those in the higher echelons of the church, which has led to Pope Francis being unable to fulfil his modernisation mandate.
When asked whether the Pope’s recent comments could see a split in the Vatican between those who supported Francis’ view, and those who were opposed to it, Ms Telford said “yes”, before adding: “Despite homosexuality never being illegal in Italy (it was ignored, though Mussolini tried to outlaw it and was warned it would merely draw attention to it), there has always been severe stigma.
“All the more reason why Francis has been immensely brave in standing up for LGBTQ rights – even now. The Vatican has always been backward-looking so Francis has taken up a precarious position.
“However, even in Italy surely the time is ripe? People’s ideas have changed.
“There are already divorces, abortions, contraception – all supposedly banned by the church… it’s the church that is out of step.”