A Week of Firsts | Michael Severance | Catholic World Report
The “Bergoglio comeback” and insights from Vatican-watchers into what we can expect from Pope Francis
Some of the less-experienced journalists covering the papal conclave were right on the money one week ago. As wrote in my report last Monday, many of these young vaticanisti covering their first conclave believed that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had a strong chance of surging from behind to beat leading papabili such as Cardinals Scola and Ouellet.
They were convinced the Argentine would have his rivincita—his comeback—in the 2013 conclave. Their rookie rhyme was not without reason.
Their plain and simple reasoning, not appreciated by the most experienced Vatican scholars and journalists, was essentially this: here is a man who was the apparent runner-up in 2005, and 50 of the cardinal electors from 2005 would be present again in the Sistine Chapel. Surely a good portion of them, say 30 to 40, would team up to recast a Bergoglio ballot for pope. Certainly many cardinal electors still felt wronged for having lost and desired retribution. Thus, they came to battle for their chosen leader.
Even if this wasn’t exactly what played out behind the closed doors of the conclave, a man known as “the quiet thunder” would indeed come roaring from behind to be chosen in the 2013 papal election.
To their credit, expert papal scholars and veteran vaticanisti, such as John Allen, Jr., did have a hunch: namely, the next pope would come from a developing country, most likely from the New World, and with little or no Curia experience, thus being positioned as an objective reformer without the local friends or nepotistic considerations that can fuel corruption.
Like other experts, Allen thought the most likely scenario involved a New World candidate who is Euro-compatible, that is, a polyglot with plenty of first-world experience and Continental heritage. Thus there was strong support for the Brazilian of German extraction, Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer. Bergoglio was seen as too old, especially considering Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had apparently indicated the need for a younger, more energetic successor.
All said and done, it is a fairly safe bet that Cardinal Bergolgio had very strong support on the first vote and that he enjoyed a wave of momentum until the white smoke blew after the fifth round on day two. It is also a safe bet to say the Holy Spirit gently nudged cardinal electors to reconsider Bergoglio when, during the last of the pre-conclave general congregations, he urged his colleagues to revitalize the Church’s sensitivity to poverty, renew her virtue of austerity in a consumerist-materialistic society, and rid herself of sinful corruption.
The rest is now history.
A week of firsts
Certainly, last Wednesday was not the first time many faithful had personally witnessed the exciting Habemus Papam! pronounced from St. Peter’s loggia.
Many folks, just like me, were right there in St. Peter’s Square only eight years ago when a shy Benedict appeared before a spill-over crowd. Still others, now graying and with grandchildren, were there on John Paul I’s or John Paul II’s first day nearly 35 years ago.
Notwithstanding, this past week proved a historic week of “firsts” for many other noteworthy reasons.