Expert Lynda Telford believes Pope Benedict and other Vatican hardliners “won’t like” the fact he made the passing comment amid concerns Benedict is making Francis’ life a “misery”. The author of ‘Women of the Vatican – Female Power in a Male World’ is also concerned that despite Francis’ best efforts to “reach out” to new people to join the church, he may be once again stuck due to an alleged row with Benedict. In many quarters, Francis is seen as one of the most progressive Popes but appears to be at odds with Benedict, the man he placed at the top of the Catholic church.
In April, footage emerged of Francis claiming that whiskey was the “real holy water” during a meeting with Scottish priests in 2019.
It was recorded as part of the BBC ‘Priest School’ documentary and in the clip, Francis was seen accepting a bottle of Oban malt whiskey.
But after the video emerged, the Vatican was forced to censor the clip, with the church’s press team demanding it not make the documentary’s final cut.
According to the Daily Record last month, the Vatican was concerned that it appeared Francis was “endorsing whiskey”.
Ms Telford believes the comments were merely showing Francis’ “realistic touch” but warned the Vatican would not be happy with them.
Speaking to Express.co.uk she said: “They wouldn’t like him making jokes about such things, but that is being out of touch with people, ordinary Catholics have always joked about the Church and prefer a more realistic touch.
“The days of the distant Pope, being carried around wearing a huge tiara are over.
“People want someone ‘real’ now and I think the Church ignores this at its peril.”
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She added: “Francis is loved by the people, though certainly not by the Curia.
“I’m sorry to say there’s a ‘dampening’ going on to prevent Francis from becoming too popular. Benedict seems to be making Francis’ life a misery with his opinions.
“Unfortunately there are many idealistic young priests in Rome, living in a bubble, who want to take the Church back to medieval times, and imagine Francis is wrong to reach out, but their way is losing Church members daily.”
The documentary aired in April, without the clip, and followed Scottish priests over a-year-a-half between 2018 and 2019.
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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.
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.
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