Conclave Election Of Pope Francis Marked By Intrigue And 'Betrayal' Of Angelo Scola By Italians

Inside The Intrigue Of Pope Francis' Papal Election
In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis is greeted by Cardinal Angelo Scola as he meets the Cardinals for the first time after his election, at the Vatican, Friday, March 15, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
In this photo made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis is greeted by Cardinal Angelo Scola as he meets the Cardinals for the first time after his election, at the Vatican, Friday, March 15, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

From the first ballot, under the Last Judgment of Michelangelo, Jorge Mario Bergoglio obtained more votes compared to the two Cardinals considered more viable on the eve of the conclave: the archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola and the Archbishop of Sao Paulo Odilo Scherer.

According to the first rumors coming from the Vatican, the election of Pope Francis occurred with a very high majority. La Repubblica newspaper reported that it was even higher than the one with which Joseph Ratzinger was elected on April 19th 2005.

That this conclave presented itself as a clash between two “parties”--curialists on one side, reformists on the other- was fairly clear. Less clear was the weakness of the most accredited reformist: Angelo Scola, the Bishop of the largest archdiocese in Europe, well perceived abroad for the activities conducted by his foundation, Oasis.

The Italian Cardinals were the first to organize against Scola's election; not only those of the Curia, guided by the Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and from the Dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano, one-time enemies but allied today in the anti-Scola battle, but also—as Vatican writer Giacomo Galeazzi writes in La Stampa — those resident Italian Cardinals, who's vote was not unified. Even Cardinal Camillo Ruini (one of the most influential in Italy) did not indicate a vote for Scola, despite their good relationship.

The “patrol” of Italian Cardinals was the most numerous at the conclave: a solid 28, followed by 11 United States Cardinals. Yet, the Italians “betrayed” their compatriot on the first vote. Bertone and Sodano have always seen Scola as an enemy due to ancient rivalries and jealousies of the Curia.

Bertone, writes a Vatican inside, begrudges Scola because Scola asked Ratzinger to remove Bertone as the Holy See Secretary of State during a meeting with the Pope at Castel Gandolfo. The rivalry with Sodano, instead, has its roots in the Archbishop of Milan's proximity to Comunione and Liberazione, a Catholic ecclesiastical movement founded by the priest and theologist Luigi Giussani.

Scola, in fact, was a disciple of Don Giussani and was active for a long time in Comunione and Liberazione. At the root of the movement is the idea of a very active and influential church in society and politics, often with unclear limits. One of the most active members of Comunione and Liberazione, for example, is Roberto Formigoni, the ex governor of the Lombardy Region who in the last years has been overwhelmed by heavy corruption scandals. In the past, Scola and Formigioni were friends, and this certainly did not help Scola's chances of becoming Pope.

Scola, therefore, was not supported by the axis of Bertone-Sodano, but he could not even convince the other Italians, perhaps because of the background tied to Comunione e Liberazione. The support of many European Cardinals, including the archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schonborn, was not enough for him.

This because especially true after the team from the United States—guided by the Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl—preferred directing its votes to the Argentine Bergoglio. According to Paolo Rodari of La Repubblica, for example, Wuerl was the principal “Pope Maker” of this conclave.

Certainly the 115 voting Cardinals were conscious of the fact that electing an Italian—regardless of how distant from the Curia—wouldn't be a great sign of reform. For Massimo Franco of Corriere della Sera , the election of a Pope originating from South America was necessary to convey a new start, as well as send a signal to the strong Latin American catholic community, that up to now has always felt marginalized by a European-centric church.

It is also necessary to remember that Bergoglio was the runner-up of the conclave in 2005, when it was a matter of choosing a figure capable of guiding the Church after the death of the much beloved John Paul II. Those that supported him eight years ago did not change their mind, and the humble way in which he has continued to conduct his activities in Argentina after being so close to the papacy, pleased many Cardinals.

The approval around the candidacy of Bergoglio increased after his participation during the General Congregations in the Hall of Paul VI. In his speech, from what can be gleamed, the Argentine spoke of the necessity of purifying the church and placing a dam on careerism. Themes that are more current than ever after the scandals of Vatileaks and the power struggles that have characterized the management of the Vatican Bank.

On the other hand, for Scherer, the Brazilian with German origins, the contrast to Joao Braz De Aviz cost him greatly. In the general congregations, de Aviz sternly attacked the Curia and its woes, denouncing divisiveness and corruption. His speech received an actual ovation from the extra-European Cardinals who in that moment of fellowship were able to measure their strength. De Aviz's words were rebutted by Scherer himself, who instead, with sword drawn, defended the Curia and the management of the Vatican Bank (in which the Archbishop of Sao Paulo was involved as a member of the Cardinal oversight committee.) On the wave of this juxtaposition, the South American Cardinals had no doubts about what side to choose.

Citing anonymous sources, Corriere della Sera writes of an under-the-counter agreement between the supporters of Bergoglio and the “great loser” Angelo Scola. Based on this agreement, Scola would become Secretary of State of the Holy See, taking upon himself the difficult task of guiding the reformation of the roman Curia. For this “dirty work” the archbishop of Milan would want to be rewarded in the next conclave. Bergoglio, in fact, is 76 years old and his pontificate might not last long.

In his last press conference, the spokesman of the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi, said that “there are not yet official communications on the confirmation of Vatican assignments for department heads”. “It is one of the issues that the Pope is occupying himself with in these days”, specified Father Lombardi, who is a Jesuit like Bergoglio. “And it's not said that there will be a need to wait much longer for these communications.”

Before You Go

Pope Francis Angelus Prayer In St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis Angelus Prayer In St. Peter's Square

Popular in the Community