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Theological Notebook: A Conclave Insider Account

Well, this didn't take over-long to appear: an anonymous cardinal has apparently released a diary kept during the Papal Conclave of 2005 for publication. It's a bit different than the rough account that had appeared in the press immediately after the conclave.

Cardinal Diary Details Papal Conclave

Sep 23, 9:05 PM (ET)


VATICAN CITY (AP) - A cardinal has broken his vow of secrecy and released his diary describing the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, revealing in an exceedingly rare account that a cardinal from Argentina was the main challenger and almost blocked Benedict's election.

Excerpts of the diary, published Friday, show Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led in each of the four ballots cast in the Sistine Chapel during the mystery-shrouded April 18-19 conclave. But, in a surprise, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit, was in second place the whole time.

Most accounts of the conclave have said retired Milan archbishop Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini was the main challenger to Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI after his election, and that a Third World pope was never realistically in the running.

While Bergoglio never threatened Ratzinger's lead - and made clear he didn't want the job, according to the diary published in the respected Italian foreign affairs magazine Limes - his runner-up status could signal the next conclave might elect a pope from Latin America, home to half the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics.

The diary of the anonymous cardinal is also significant because it shows that Ratzinger didn't garner a huge margin - he had 84 of the 115 votes in the final ballot, seven more than the required two-thirds majority.

His two immediate predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope John Paul I, are believed to have garnered 99 and 98 votes respectively, and that was when there were only 111 voting cardinals.

"It does seem that somebody wants to indicate that the conclave was a more complex process than was being depicted and that Benedict's mandate was not a slam dunk," said David Gibson, a former Vatican Radio journalist who is writing a biography of Benedict.

Finally, the diary includes a few surprises, including a vote in the final ballot for Cardinal Bernard Law, forced to resign as Boston archbishop because of the church sex abuse scandal.

And it offers other colorful insights of what went on behind the scenes during the two days the 115 red-hatted princes of the church were sequestered in the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel to select the 265th leader of the Catholic Church.

Because the hotel prohibits smoking, Portuguese Cardinal Jose Policarpo da Crux would sneak outside for an after-dinner cigar, the diary says. And Cardinal Walter Kasper shunned the minibuses that shuttled cardinals to the Sistine Chapel, preferring to walk by the Vatican gardens instead.

"Sunday, April 17: In the afternoon I took over my room at the Casa Santa Marta. I put down my bags and tried to open the blinds because the room was dark. I wasn't able to. One of my fellow brothers asked a nun working there, thinking it was a technical problem. She explained they were sealed. Closure of the conclave..." the diary begins.

The published diary entries were interspersed with commentary from Vatican journalist Lucio Brunelli, who says he obtained the diary through a trusted source he had known for years. He told The Associated Press he spoke in Italian to his source - a hint the cardinal in question was Italian.

Brunelli says he couldn't identify the author because of the vow of secrecy each cardinal took before entering the conclave. Punishment for violating the vow is excommunication.

In Buenos Aires, a spokesman for the archdiocese, Enzo Paoletta, said Bergoglio had no comment on the report.

Nothing official is ever recorded from conclaves and the ballots are burned in the Sistine Chapel stove - ashes that signal to the world through white smoke or black whether a pope has been elected.

As a result, the diary's tallies - which Brunelli said he confirmed through other cardinals - are unusual, although previously tallies have leaked out piecemeal.

According to the diary, Ratzinger won 47 votes and Bergoglio 10 on the first round of balloting, while Martini got nine and some 30 others got a few votes.

In round two, Ratzinger edged up to 65 and Bergoglio 35.

By the third ballot, Ratzinger had 72 votes, just five shy of the two-thirds majority needed to win. But Bergoglio got 40, just over the threshold needed to stall the conclave if his supporters wanted to.

However, the diary says Bergoglio made it clear he might not have accepted the job. The cardinal recalls watching Bergoglio cast his ballot: "The suffering face, as if he were begging: 'God don't do this to me.'"

Marco Politi, Vatican correspondent for La Repubblica, said if the diary showed anything, it's that outsiders really have no idea what happens during a conclave, since so many of the media's preconceived ideas were proved wrong.

"To know more, we have to wait for other tears in the secret," he wrote Friday.

Gibson speculated the diary's author was Italian and wanted to set the record straight that Ratzinger, a German, didn't have as significant a margin as some had suggested.

"Outside of Italy, Catholics and churchmen have a very kind of mystical view of the Vatican and especially the conclave," Gibson said.

"The Italians have always had a more kind of political view of the process ... for them it's their election, and they're much more comfortable with it, as a human as well as a divine process."

Argentine Cardinal Jorge MAria Bergoglio, celebrates a Mass in honor of Pope John Paul II at the Buenos Aires Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina in this April 4, 2005 file photo. An anonymous cardinal has broken his vow of secrecy and released a diary he kept during the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, revealing in a rare account that Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio of Argentina had been the main challenger to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and had almost blocked his election. (AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Article based on diary says German cardinal became pope with 84 votes
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service, 23 Sept 2005

ROME (CNS) -- On the fourth ballot of the April 18-19 conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger went from being five votes shy of election to having seven more than the 77 needed.

The count, along with a few details of the brief conclave leading to the election of Pope Benedict XVI, was published Sept. 23 in Limes, a respected Italian journal usually focused on geopolitics.

On each of the four ballots, the magazine said, the prelate receiving the second-highest number of votes was Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.

Limes said its information came from the diary of an anonymous cardinal who, while acknowledging he was violating his oath of secrecy, felt the results of the conclave votes should be part of the historic record.

The journal said it confirmed the diary's count with other cardinals.

In several cases, the diary author did not list the names of cardinals who got only one vote on a ballot, although because he said it was "curious," he did so when Cardinal Bernard F. Law, former archbishop of Boston, received one vote on the last ballot.

The cardinals began their solemn procession into the Sistine Chapel at 4:30 p.m. April 18. After taking their oaths, the doors were closed at 5:24 p.m. and Cardinal Ratzinger, dean of the college, asked the cardinals if they were prepared to vote or if they wanted to retire for the evening.

The majority voted to proceed with the election; "no cardinal wanted uselessly to prolong the conclave," the diarist wrote.

The cardinal said that on the first ballot, Cardinal Ratzinger received 47 votes; election in the early days of a conclave requires a candidate to receive two-thirds of the votes plus one. With 115 cardinals participating, 77 votes were needed.

The other cardinals who got more than one vote on the first ballot were Cardinal Bergoglio with 10 votes; retired Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, 9; Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, papal vicar of Rome, 6; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, 4; Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, 3; and Italian Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan, 2.

While many news outlets had reported that Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to have the greatest support going into the conclave, Limes said, "the real surprise on the first ballot" was the support for Cardinal Bergoglio.

The diary writer said the Argentine was supported by Cardinals "Karl Lehmann, president of the German episcopal conference, and Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Brussels, who led a significant squad of U.S. and Latin American cardinals," in addition to a couple of Vatican officials.

The cardinals ate their evening meal at 8:30 p.m., speaking across the tables in the dining hall, then meeting in groups of two or three in their rooms, said the diary writer. Portuguese Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon, with his cigar, and other smoking cardinals were forced to imbibe outside on the patio.

The second vote began at 9:30 a.m. April 19 with Cardinal Ratzinger receiving 65 votes and Cardinal Bergoglio garnering 35. Cardinal Sodano again received four votes and Cardinal Tettamanzi kept his two, but Cardinals Martini and Ruini received none.

The third vote started at 11 a.m. and, with 40 votes for Cardinal Bergoglio, his supporters had enough of the 115 votes to block Cardinal Ratzinger from being elected.

Cardinal Ratzinger received 72 votes on the third ballot.

"The cardinal-electors were aware that this was the crucial moment of the conclave," Limes said.

The diarist said that even before leaving the Sistine Chapel for lunch "there were the first comments and contacts. There was great concern among the cardinals who hoped for the election of Cardinal Ratzinger."

On the fourth and final ballot, which began at 4:30 p.m., Cardinal Ratzinger received 84 votes and was elected pope. Cardinal Bergoglio had 26 votes, the diarist said.

Limes said it is not known why some of Cardinal Bergoglio's supporters switched their votes.

"Perhaps they simply thought it was inopportune to hope for a prolonged delay with the risk of a serious division without a real and convincing alternative to (Cardinal) Ratzinger," Limes said.

The diary writer said that when it was announced that Cardinal Ratzinger had more than the necessary votes, "there was a moment of silence, followed by a long, warm applause."

The cardinal's diary also said Cardinal Law received one vote on the last ballot as did retired Italian Cardinal Giacomo Biffi of Bologna and Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna.

Limes said the diary began with the cardinal describing moving into his room at the Vatican's Domus Sanctae Marthae, the guesthouse where the cardinals were sequestered.

The cardinal said he set down his bags and tried to open the shutters because the room was completely dark, but the shutters would not budge. "They were sealed" and the telephones and television were disconnected to prevent contact with the outside world, the cardinal noted.
Tags: benedict xvi, conclave, ecclesiology, historical, theological notebook

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