Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - Page 9 News List

The ascent of Pope Francis

While the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio came as a surprise to many, his humble personality and desire to grow the church won him key support

By Daniel J. Wakin  /  NY Times News Service, ROME

The third factor, he said, was “the fact that he has a heart for the poor.”

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. However, Benedict’s resignation at 85, the first of a pope in 598 years, may have changed that thinking.

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 Solo 24 Ore, reported that Cardinals Bergoglio, Scola and Marc Ouellet of Canada were the leaders.

Ignazio Ingrao, the Vatican expert for the Panorama newsweekly, said that at the beginning cardinals voted for a number of individuals as a “courtesy vote.”

However, “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 for election – 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.

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.

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 Bergoglio may have gotten strong support from the region.

While Bertone failed to give him support, Scola certainly had his share of believers in the Italian Bishops Conference — it sent out a message congratulating him for 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,” Paolo Rodari, La Repubblica’s Vaticanista, wrote.

Another source of surprise was Bergoglio’s age, 76. A number of cardinals had suggested that a younger man was needed — in the early 60s range — especially after a pope resigned because of waning strength in old age.

Bergoglio’s age may have cut both ways, Ingrao said.

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.

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