How was Pope Frances Selected?

March 15th, 2013

The Times has some details:

The choice of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope was so surprising, the Italian bishops sent out an e-mail congratulating the wrong man. His profile was so low that he was barely mentioned by the feverish handicappers and Vaticanologists [JB: And FantasyPope!?] who make their living scrutinizing the Holy See. But the Argentine emerged from the conclave a swiftly anointed Pope Francis on Wednesday evening, barely 28 hours after it began.

While the workings of the conclave are secret, Cardinal Bergoglio won the papacy, according to comments from cardinals, Vatican experts and leaks to Italian newspapers, in part because the Vatican-based cardinals protective of their bureaucracy snubbed the presumptive front-runner, and a favored candidate of reformers, Cardinal Angelo Scola.

That created an opening for a Latin-American Jesuit whose attractive mix of piety, humility and administrative skills won over many cardinals, including those intent on addressing the Vatican’s recent troubles with corruption and disarray in the Vatican hierarchy, or Curia. Still, it remains to be seen how, and if, Francis will fulfill those hopes.

The Times also reports that Bergoglio was the runner-up in the 2005 conclave, but he declined it:

The most authoritative accounts of that election suggest Cardinal Bergoglio garnered the second most votes to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the penultimate round. Then, at lunch, he was said to have thrown his votes to Cardinal Ratzinger, who was quickly elected Benedict XVI. Some accounts suggest he did not want to be pope; others, that he knew he did not have a chance of winning.

It is difficult to know whether his role in the last conclave had an effect on the thinking of his fellow 114 cardinals this week, 47 of whom took part in the 2005 balloting. An unwritten rule holds that a second-place finisher should not be chosen pope because it could be seen as a slight to the previous pope. But Benedict’s resignation at 85, the first of a pope in 598 years, may have changed that thinking.

And here is how the voting went down!

Cardinal Bergoglio apparently went through the first round of voting, which took place on Tuesday evening, into the conclave as a leading vote-getter, but a number of other eminences garnered some votes, which were handwritten on Latin ballots with Pilot gel pens. Carlo Marroni, who covers the Vatican for Il Sole 24 Ore, reported that Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal Scola and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada were the leaders.

Ignazio Ingrao, the Vatican expert for the newsweekly Panorama, said that at the beginning cardinals voted for a number of individuals as a “courtesy vote.” But, “Then they went fairly quickly to Bergoglio,” he said. Private conversations in the evening helped put the focus on him, analysts said.

In the final round of voting, the future Francis hit 77 — the required two-thirds minimum — before all the votes were counted. Applause broke out, several cardinals said, but the counting continued for completeness. He ended up with “more than sufficient” votes to win, the Brazilian cardinal, Geraldo Majella Agnelo, said. The final tally was kept secret.

For what its worth Scola and Ouellet were 2 and 3 on FantasyPope. Turkson was our number one guy. So maybe we didn’t do quite as bad as I initially thought.

This bit about Scola is fascinating:

Cardinal Scola went into the conclave with a solid block of votes, including many of the Americans and Europeans, who saw in him an Italian who was nevertheless at a distance from the intrigues of the Vatican. But it quickly became apparent this was not going to be enough, particularly given what news reports said was the opposition of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the powerful secretary of state under Benedict.

“The rapidity with which the choice of Bergoglio was arrived at confirms that the votes that Scola could count on immediately became insufficient,” wrote Massimo Franco, the Vatican expert for the daily Corriere della Sera. The numbers also tell a tale: Latin America had 19 electors, second only to Europe’s 61, and Cardinal Bergoglio may have gotten strong support from the region.

While Cardinal Bertone failed to give him support, Cardinal Scola certainly had his share of believers in the Italian Bishops Conference — it sent out a message congratulating him on becoming pope 20 minutes after Francis was named. The conference later blamed a technical glitch.

“The Argentine archbishop was elected after the third balloting when Angelo Scola had sent his votes toward him,” wrote Paolo Rodari, La Repubblica’s Vaticanista.

And why would they pick such an old Pope?

Cardinal Bergoglio’s age may have cut both ways, said Mr. Ingrao, the Vatican expert for Panorama. Reformers may have believed it would motivate him to act quickly, while cardinals favoring the status quo may have hoped his papacy would be too short to effect much change.

“So there were thoughts about looking to someone much younger,” said Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux. “But there were two reasons” to choose Cardinal Bergoglio, he said. “First it was his personality that was the determiner. The other thing was that we remembered that we had popes like John XXIII who was old but he was decisive for the evolution of the church. So the question of age wasn’t such a big factor.”