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Vatican insiders didn't predict Bergoglio, but who did?

March 14, 2013|By Tom Kington | Los Angeles Times
  • Pope Francis arrives for a prayer at Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore basilica early Thursday.
Pope Francis arrives for a prayer at Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore basilica… (AFP )

ROME -- Italy’s Vaticanisti, the small band of journalists who claim to have secret sources inside the Holy See, may have utterly failed to predict the election of pope Francis, but they can take consolation from the fact they were not alone in heavily backing Italy’s Cardinal Angelo Scola.

Minutes after Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named pope Wednesday evening, the conference of Italian bishops emailed a press release that welcomed “the news of the election of Cardinal Angelo Scola as the successor of Peter.”

A full statement attached to the email did name Bergoglio, but the mistaken cover note raised suspicions it was pre-written by officials who considered the papacy a done deal for Scola, the archbishop of Milan.

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Scola was seen by Vatican watchers as the favorite candidate of overseas cardinals and not much loved by the Italian cardinals holding senior posts inside the scandal-ridden Vatican bureaucracy. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera was so confident he was heavily backed it stated Tuesday that exactly 50 cardinals would back him in the first round of voting.

By Thursday, the Vaticanisti were at a loss to explain why no one had flagged Bergoglio, not even as a dark horse candidate, although in retrospect some were suggesting the reported 40 cardinals who backed Bergoglio against Joseph Ratzinger in 2005 were looking to get him elected the second time round.

Only one journalist, Vittorio Messori, claimed in Corriere della Sera that he had foreseen Bergoglio’s breakthrough. But, he wrote, he had made the prediction to a colleague and told him to keep it to himself.

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