Civil war in the Vatican as conservatives battle Francis for the soul of Catholicism

As the pope leaves Rome for a retreat to mark Lent, rebellion and turmoil are in the air

When Pope Francis was elected nearly four years ago, on 13 March 2013, he was escorted – like every pope before him – from the Sistine Chapel to the Room of Tears. It is the place where a new pope pauses for a moment – and no doubt many of them do shed a few tears, thinking of the momentous responsibility upon their shoulders – before stepping out on to the balcony of St Peter’s to greet the world as the new leader of the Roman Catholic church.

When Francis, known until then as Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, first appeared that night, he appeared remarkably sanguine, joking that the cardinals had gone to the ends of the Earth to choose the next pope. If he’d had any inkling of what these last four years would be like, he would surely have wept in that Room of Tears.

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