Roman twilight - the unbreathable atmosphere at the end of Pope Francis' Pontificate.

We have had a few days of great news pressure, full of interesting news that show that times are speeding up. Today we do not see much of interest that is not a repetition of what has already been reported, so we will make an exception and not quote the news of the day. We have a marvellous spring morning, it is hard to leave the morning walk in St. Peter's Square, the solemnity of the empty stage, of the great baroque theatre that is shown in all its splendour as if it were preparing for decisive days. The sun slowly illuminates it with warm tones, discovering the beauty with a play of light and shadow that overcomes the darkness.

The Vatican is a sea of rumours, to say the least, here everything can be seen and there are taboo subjects that are only commented on with gestures and very sotto voce. We may be much closer to the end of Pope Francis' pontificate than we think. Too many discreet transfers to the Gemelli that are protected so as not to be seen leaving the garage of Santa Marta directly to avoid prying eyes. In the tradition of the sacred palaces it is said that the Pope enjoys good health until three days after his death, and that is where we are. Age and what we see indicate that we are at the end of a very turbulent period, with a final outcome approaching.

There are many, it is useless to hide it, who are praying for this nightmare to end. In the Curia, chaos reigns, everything is paralysed, and action is only taken by direct order, and at this stage, in writing, from Pope Francis. Not that we wish death on anyone, God forbid, but it is clear that we may be close and many see it as necessary to turn the page. The springs are only in the imagination of a tiny group who have made Pope Francis into something that goes beyond his person, making him embody all their aspirations. Human beings are mortal, all of us, that is a fact we cannot ignore, all the more so when it concerns matters of government. Until Benedict XVI, pontificates have ended with the death of the reigning pope, it is not a fact we cannot talk about, we must, and we can be close to it.

We are tired, we can't go on any longer, we are enduring, we are resisting, but we have entered a phase in which neither 'palante', nor 'patrás'. Everything is paralysed, except for some who are trying to take advantage of things to go their own way. They know it's now or never, but Pope Francis does not seem very willing to make 'revolutionary' decisions. His recent position on celibacy, it is possible to change it, but for the next one to do it, may very well define the situation.

From what we hear from the rest of the world, we find a very clueless college of cardinals, full of purpurates who are far removed from Vatican intrigues and who do not know each other. We are well aware that the upcoming conclave is full of questions and with very unpredictable results. We have faith and we know that God will act and bring great good out of so much evil, but humanly, as far as our mortal nature is capable of reasoning, this is going very badly. People are unique, so is Pope Francis, and a Francis II, a clone, is not possible. It will be something else, hopefully with the capacity to fill the dying body of Christ with life.

The thousands of bishops who populate the world, with few exceptions, reign in silence. There are many Catholics who have abandoned ship, who have left their parishes in a massive and silent apostasy. Those who remain, few, if we had the courage to make a true statistic we would be frightened, are grouped around the faithful priests who remain. Episcopal silences denote cowardice, but also fear of being 'retired' and inability to face a time of crisis, social and religious, for which they are not prepared.

Traditional religious orders are dying out and closing their houses at an unstoppable rate. They are the ones who talk most about springs, and they are the ones who dedicate themselves to burying, closing and trying to manage an immense and now useless real estate patrimony. There are still some faithful, we know, who are suffering the decomposition of their founding charisms. Let us hope that they will be the seed that will bring the dead back to life, the important thing is not that they are many, but that they are saints, God will do the rest. We have new foundations, at the moment almost all of them have been intervened, which are also the hope that religious life is not a thing of the past, there are vocations, we must take care of them and form them, it is not an easy time.

The real treasure of these times are the diocesan priests scattered throughout the church, seemingly few, together not so few. We saw them at the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI, we meet them every day in our parishes, they are the ones who try to maintain, with the support of their faithful and the baleful gaze of their bishops, what is left of Christianity. With successes and failures, with much enthusiasm, they fight against adversity. They celebrate with piety, they hear confessions even if they suffer hours of loneliness, they open their churches even if they are empty for many hours, they organise all kinds of activities even if the number of people attending is minimal. They are the burning flame that assures us that there is a relay and that God continues without abandoning his people.

The faithful, who are the natural majority of the baptised, are still here, but bewilderment reigns in many of them. It is not easy to see every day how those who are supposed to confirm them in the faith become their public enemies. We think that we are all learning and if in other times a red cassock, let alone a white one, or a pectoral, indicated an indisputable authority, today it is not like that; on the contrary, we are learning to be on the defensive because we want to die in the faith of our elders and not in that of the German synodalists.

Our Saint Teresa, the 'teresona' was clear about this and her times were not easy: "The things of God's service are already so meagre that those who serve him must turn their backs on one another in order to go forward".

From the Book of Life: "Many times I have thought, amazed at the great goodness of God, and my soul rejoicing to see his great magnificence and mercy. Blessed be He for all things, which I have seen clearly that He leaves no good wish unpaid to me, even in this life. No matter how crude and imperfect my works may have been, my Lord was improving and perfecting them and giving them value, and the evils and sins He then hid them. Even in the eyes of those who have seen them, His Majesty allows them to be blinded, and removes them from their memory. He makes guilt to be forgiven. He makes a virtue shine forth which the Lord Himself puts in me, almost forcing me to have it. Who today would not want to have such a friend for his daily life?

Her times, like ours, were hard times, difficult times, and times of change between eras, but which, precisely for that reason, offered and offer great opportunities to live a faith that shows a coherent and radical witness to Christ, a real possibility of living daily holiness. In hard times we need strong friends of God.

"A soul hidden in God; what has it to desire but to love and to love more and more?

"How can you believe, you who accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one God?"