Within the last week, an unusual private meeting involving dozens of Cardinals, Bishops and theologians was held in Chicago, with discussions centering on how best to support Pope Francis.
The meeting, composed of 35 U.S. Catholic Cardinals and Bishops as well as another 30 theologians, was held in Chicago and featured no media coverage during the two-day event.
The National Catholic Reporter later disclosed the secret meeting, which was arranged by a trio of Jesuit colleges, including Loyola University, Fordham and Boston College.
Cardinal Blase Cupich hosted the event, along with Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Newark’s Cardinal Joseph Tobin.
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An attendee tells NBC 5 that the event was held in secret to avoid any potential picketers or demonstrations from taking place.
Organizers say that the event was designed to produce constructive discussions and to open channels of communication to address divides among not just American Catholics, but also bishops who oppose some of Pope Francis’ directives.
Pope Francis, who is 85 years old, underwent intestinal surgery last summer, and for more than a year there has been speculation over whether he would follow the path of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who retired at the same age.
Attendees of the meeting dismissed questions over whether such planning was taking place.
“No, he (Pope Francis) is alive and well, and we are looking for how we can continue to be supportive,” one attendee told NBC 5.