Bergoglio quickly emerged as perfect conclave candidate for pope

March 14, 2013

(Faithful react as newly elected Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, appears on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )

The cardinals who elect the pope are sworn to secrecy about their deliberations, but details began to filter out on Thursday about how rank outsider Jorge Bergoglio quickly emerged as a frontrunner to replace Pope Benedict.

Bergoglio was a runner-up to the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the 2005 conclave that made Ratzinger pope. But he was not even mentioned in many media long lists of the likely papal candidates or “papabili” this time around.

In the arcane world of papal conclaves, keeping below the parapet until the last minute is, however, considered an advantage. “Enter as a pope and come out as a cardinal” is the saying in Rome, describing how frontrunners leave disappointed.

Bergoglio, a Jesuit known for his humility, lack of pretension and frugality, seems to have had the two qualities that the cardinals had said they were seeking – pastoral skills capable of revitalizing the Church and the potential to bring its dysfunctional government or Curia under control.

He appears to have benefited from anger and resentment among world cardinals about the rivalry and infighting inside the Curia, which sapped the strength of the traditional powerful Italian voting bloc – almost a quarter of the cardinal electors.

This is believed to have undermined the chances of Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola, one of the two frontrunners before the conclave, alongside Brazil’s Cardinal Odilo Scherer.

The Curia problems are widely seen as the fault of a scheming group of Italian prelates close to Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

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