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Pope Francis (L) with then-Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has confirmed prior information that he was a close contender to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during the 2005 papal conclave, while also claiming he was “used” by other cardinals and that he himself voted for the future Pope Benedict XVI. 

“In that conclave – the data is known – they used me,” said Pope Francis, in a preview chapter released Easter Sunday, ahead of the April 3 publication of a book The Successor detailing his relationship with Pope Benedict XVI. 

The preview chapter contains information regarding the 2005 conclave, which saw the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. Having been created cardinal in 2001, Bergoglio participated in the 2005 conclave as an elector.

While the revealed passages have caused unsurprising controversy, some aspects appear to contradict previous accounts.

Bergoglio ‘used’ in 2005?

“It happened that I got to have forty of the one hundred and fifteen votes in the Sistine Chapel,” Francis states in the book, about the second round of votes in 2005. “They were enough to stop Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s candidacy, because if they had continued to vote for me, he would not have been able to reach the two thirds necessary to be elected pope.”

The Argentine Pontiff continued, expanding on his statement that he was “used” by certain unnamed cardinals during the 2005 conclave to ruin the chances of a Ratzinger election: 

The move was to put my name on it, block Ratzinger’s election, and then negotiate a different third candidate. They told me later that they did not want a pope ‘foreigner’…

The idea was to block the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. They used me, but behind they were already thinking of proposing another cardinal. They still disagreed on who, but were already about to release a name.

Analyzing the Pope’s remarks about details of the 2005 conclave, some have expressed concern about his detailing of the voting numbers. Under the terms of Pope John Paul II’s Universi Dominici Gregis (UDG) governing papal conclaves, all the participating cardinals swear an oath “to maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy.”

READ: Pope Francis slams Archbishop Gänswein for ‘lack of nobility and humanity’ over Benedict XVI book

Paragraph 58 of UDG further notes that additional individuals associated with the election “who directly or indirectly could in any way violate secrecy – whether by words or writing, by signs or in any other way – are absolutely obliged to avoid this, lest they incur the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Apostolic See.”

Francis alluded to this penalty, stating that “cardinals swear not to reveal what is happening in the conclave, but the popes are licensed to count it.”

Papal relations with Canon Law have long been a subject of particular interest and often confusion. But canon lawyers have noted that since the Pope can grant permission to cardinals to reveal details about the conclave, he himself can do legally likewise, in terms of discussing such details.

In fact, the details about the 2005 conclave votes as recounted by Francis are already in the public sphere, though perhaps little known. Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh presented them shortly after Francis’ 2013 election, citing the now-editorial manager of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication. 

So also did historian and The Dictator Pope author Henry Sire, who cited long-time Vatican journalist and friend of Bergoglio, Lucio Brunelli. “Despite the rules of strict secrecy it was revealed after the 2005 Conclave that the obscure Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had been the runner-up,” Sire wrote, before detailing Bergoglio had received 40 votes compared to Ratzinger’s 72 votes on the penultimate ballot. 

Ivereigh’s article has since been removed from the public sphere, though is found in the internet archive. 

Francis also attested in the new book that those who “used” him were seeking to prevent then-Cardinal Ratzinger from achieving “the two thirds [of the vote] necessary to be elected pope.”

However, as has already been highlighted, such a comment does not align with the rules governing the conclave in 2005. John Paul II’s UDG – under which the 2005 conclave was held – states that a pope is elected by a simple “absolute majority,” (namely over 50 percent) which would not require a two-thirds majority.

Benedict XVI later reinstituted the two-thirds majority needed to elect a pope, in June 2007.

Bergoglio for Ratzinger as ‘transitional’ pope

In the preview chapter, Francis appears aggrieved at being “used” by the un-named group of cardinals against Ratzinger, and states further that he himself voted for Ratzinger. According to Francis, the un-named group of cardinals only stopped strategically using Bergoglio in the 2005 conclave when he let it be known that he would not accept if he was elected Pope. 

But expanding on his reasons for supporting Ratzinger, Bergoglio appeared to echo the already well-documented aims and phraseology of the St. Gallen Mafia, by expressing his wish for a “transitional” pope in the 2005 conclave: 

He [Ratzinger] was the only one who could be a pope at the time. After the revolution of John Paul II, who had been a dynamic pontiff, very active, with initiative, who traveled… it was necessary a pope to maintain a healthy balance, a transitional pope.

While the St. Gallen Mafia were campaigning hard against Ratzinger during the 2005 conclave, once elected, they resigned themselves to the result and began to refer to him as a “transitional” figure – a phrase employed by Francis in the preview chapter. 

READ: Priest: St. Gallen Mafia prelates were named by suspected Freemason Cardinal Baggio

Francis attested in the book that he was “happy” Ratzinger had been elected in 2005, rather than himself, since “if they had chosen one like me, who is in a lot of trouble, I couldn’t have done anything. At that time, it would not have been possible.”

‘Used’ or not?

In the preview chapter, Francis appears as one who was unwilling to cooperate in the plans of others during 2005. But Bergoglio was described by Henry Sire as having returned to his native Argentina following the 2005 conclave with the air of being the “nearly pope.”

Sire writes in The Dictator Pope that Bergoglio was at the very least cooperating with the St. Gallen Mafia cardinals to be elected in 2005, and was – according to Sire’s account – dispirited afterwards due to his failure. 

In the years leading up to the 2005 conclave, Bergoglio’s fame and influence spread both in Latin America and in Rome. By 2005, a report – which noted Bergoglio as the chief rival to Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave – declared that “his star shone in Rome” and left “a favourable impression as a man open to communion and dialogue.”

That same report recounted how “Bergoglio is not a theologian or an outstanding intellectual nor a polyglot (although he can cope with foreign languages), but he moves in all milieux securely and ably, especially in Rome.” 

Bergoglio was “seen as a highly attractive choice” by many of the cardinals in 2005, wrote Austen Ivereigh in 2013, especially after Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini withdrew his name from consideration, citing illness.

The now-widely attested account of Bergoglio’s near rise to the papal throne in 2005 was largely forgotten in the clamor surrounding the new Pope Benedict XVI, and in the lead up to the 2013 conclave most news reports were too focused on the details of a shock resignation to seriously recall the leading contenders from 2005.

But speaking to LifeSiteNews, Sire took issue with the claims made by Francis in the preview chapter of the new book. While stating that Cardinal Bergoglio did not enter the 2005 conclave with a thought of becoming pope, Sire suggested that “it is another question how he responded when a strong group began to put him forward.”

Quoting a line from his own book about the 2013 conclave, Sire stated: “‘The liberal cardinals thought that they were using Bergoglio; it is more likely that he was using them.’ The same judgment is applicable, with due adjustment, to 2005.”

Commenting on Francis’ claim that he was “used” in 2005, Sire pointed to the diary of an anonymous cardinal from the conclave, which detailed Bergoglio’s accumulation of 39 votes. “How Bergoglio responded to this situation is a mystery which no-one not present at the Conclave could claim to answer,” said Sire. 

“However,” he added, “it should be seen in the light of Bergoglio’s habitual way of acting, which has always been to avoid committing himself openly, and taking a position which allows him to be seen as acceptable to either side.”

Sire continued, stating that “even more relevant is Bergoglio’s ample track record of manipulating the truth in retrospect, and in particular the story of how he dismissed Mr. Botazzi from his staff, which I recount on p. 34 [of The Dictator Pope].”

“The possibility of total falsification on the part of the present Vicar of Christ would not be at all out of character.”