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Pope Francis honored Cardinal Godfried Danneels (2nd from left) by letting him stand alongside the pope on the balcony on the night of his election on March 13, 2013.

(LifeSiteNews) — His biggest supporters push the narrative of a humble cardinal and Church “surprised” by the election of Pope Francis. However, this narrative runs counter to the reality described in Henry Sire’s book The Dictator Pope of a Cardinal Bergoglio who “plotted like mad” after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. Even accounts friendly to Bergoglio, such as Gerard O’Connell’s, portray a cardinal, still in Buenos Aires, taking an active interest in events in Rome following Benedict’s resignation.  

Based on these and other sources, the narrative that Cardinal Bergoglio was a passive, or even an unwitting, beneficiary of the St. Gallen mafia’s initiatives on his behalf is impossible to accept. Rather, there is reason to believe he took a very significant and active role in his own election campaign. To consider this possibility, let us consider some of the “Unsolved Mysteries of the 2013 Conclave.” 

Cardinal Bergoglio arrived in Rome on February 27, 2013, the day before the effective date of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation (February 28), in the run up to the pre-conclave meetings which began on March 4. On the evening of his arrival, the Cardinal did not dine with old friends in the College of Cardinals, perhaps to discuss the conclave, as might be expected. Instead, he dined with four Italian journalists, all close friends and Bergoglian partisans. Two of them were very influential vaticanisti, Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente, just the sort of men who could update the Cardinal on all the latest news and rumors in Rome, published and unpublished, about the coming conclave.  

On the morning of March 2, 2013, Tornielli, without mentioning he had dined with Bergoglio just a couple of evenings before, published in Vatican Insider a glowing profile on Bergoglio. Quoting an anonymous cardinal, the article’s opening line famously read: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.” For cardinal-electors attentively reading the latest on the upcoming conclave as they gathered in Rome, the article undoubtedly had the practical effect of boosting Cardinal Bergoglio’s papal prospects.  

Was it just a stroke of luck for Bergoglio that his good friend Tornielli penned this article, or was there more to it? To consider that question, let us fast forward five years to when Cardinal Bergoglio was now Pope Francis. In August 2018, Archbishop Viganò released his famous Testimony which stunned the Catholic world with its accusations and evidence that top prelates in the Church, including Francis, looked the other way with regard to the allegations against then-Cardinal McCarrick.  

Speaking to reporters in an airplane press conference, Pope Francis refused to comment on Viganò’s accusations, choosing instead to respond quite obscurely:  

I will not say a single word about this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions. It’s an act of faith. When some time passes and you have drawn your conclusions, I may speak. But I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you. That’s good.”  

Pope Francis bizarrely insisted that it should be journalists who “do the work” of assessing the accusations against him, rather than he who should respond to their questions. A little over two months later, the Pope’s seeming “act of faith” in the journalistic profession was rewarded when a newly published book attempted to shift any blame for McCarrick away from Francis and onto others, while at the same time attacking Viganò’s personal credibility. But was it simply that the Pope’s “act of faith” paid off, or was it something other than faith?  

Well, it turns out that book was authored by Francis’s journalist-friends, Tornielli and Valente, with whom he had dined upon his arrival in Rome for the conclave. In December 2018, one month after the publication of this defense of Francis, Tornielli was appointed editorial director of the Dicastery of Communication at the Vatican by Pope Francis.  

Given the fact pattern, one could be excused for surmising Pope Francis had a direct hand in the genesis of Tornielli’s and Valente’s book. The unsolved mystery here is: did Pope Francis have a hand as well in the genesis of Tornielli’s “four years of Bergoglio” article of March 2, 2013? As a side note, as many as three different cardinals and a layman have been cited by as many as three different journalists and McCarrick as having spoken the line that ‘four/five years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.’ The one thing common to them all is that each was a close friend of Cardinal Bergoglio. So, was Bergoglio the original source of this talking point, crafted to put cardinal-electors at ease about his advanced age at the time?  

The next unsolved mysteries involve ex-Cardinal McCarrick. McCarrick was very influential among his fellow American cardinals, and particularly so among third world cardinals whose support, as ‘pope-maker’ Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told Gerard O’Connell, was key to Bergoglio’s election. Per McCarrick’s account from October 2013, the ex-cardinal was visited just before the pre-conclave meetings at the North American College in Rome by an “influential Italian gentleman,” on or about March 2 or 3. This unnamed visitor asked McCarrick to “talk up Bergoglio” in the meetings before the conclave.  

Citing this meeting, Archbishop Vigano’s Testimony accused Francis of rewarding McCarrick for actively supporting his election. Yet, while the McCarrick Report investigators attempted to rebut Vigano’s accusations against Pope Francis, curiously, their report excluded any mention of the meeting above which formed the implicit premise of the accusation, i.e., that the “influential Italian gentleman” was an emissary sent by Cardinal Bergoglio.  

Not only did the report not attempt to address whether McCarrick had in fact “talked up Bergoglio,” it downplayed his role in the pre-conclave meetings (McCarrick Report, p. 391). However, our own research demonstrated McCarrick was observed to have been quite active in “touting the praises” of Bergoglio to all who would listen. Separately, we were informed by a prelate who encountered McCarrick in Rome immediately following the election of Francis:  

“His (McCarrick’s) very first words to me, before he said anything else – indicating that he had been part of a group working on this – were, “We did it.”  The words left me surprised and pondering. Since I was not involved in any campaign, it seemed to me that McCarrick had been.”  

The identity of the “influential Italian gentleman” is an unsolved mystery. However, there are intriguing clues as to his possible identity. One man we have researched is Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the community of San Egidio. The reporting of Sandro Magister indicates Riccardi had previously engaged in papal campaigning, and he is a long time, self-professed “convinced Bergoglian” known to have been close to Cardinal Bergoglio and McCarrick. Why didn’t the McCarrick Report investigators interview Pope Francis or McCarrick about the “influential Italian gentleman”?  

The case of Cardinal Scola is another unsolved mystery of the conclave. Scola, a close friend of Benedict XVI, was considered a leading papabile in 2013 – a thought that likely gave Benedict XVI comfort when he decided to resign. However, early in the morning of the day the conclave was to begin, Italian anti-mafia police raided businesses associated with Roberto Formigoni, a close friend of Cardinal Scola. The international press reports, surely seen by the cardinal-electors, highlighted Scola’s links to Formigoni, and to Communione e Liberazione (controversial for some on the left). The press claimed the raids would negatively impact Scola’s chances in the conclave. Italian prosecutors are notoriously political, and the timing of the raids is undoubtedly questionable. The unsolved mystery is whether the timing of the raids was an unfortunate coincidence for Scola, or willfully coordinated by forces interested in tipping the scales of the conclave in favor of Bergoglio. 

We have reviewed some of the unsolved mysteries and questions surrounding the 2013 conclave. Whether or not the events and activities above ultimately have an innocent explanation or not, there is at least one question that is not an unsolved mystery. Cui bono? Who directly benefited most from each? The answer to that question is clear: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. 

Steven O’Reilly is the author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. A former intelligence officer, his research into the 2013 conclave may be found in the Conclave Chronicles at RomaLocutaEst. He can be contacted at [email protected]  or [email protected]. (Follow Steven on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or GETTR: @StevenOReilly).