New York Daily News

Pope vote ‘maneuvers’

Francis tells of schemes during recent papal elections, including own


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has exposed the political “maneuvers” used to sway votes during the two most recent elections of popes, while denying he is planning to reform the process for future conclaves, in a book-length interview published Tuesday.

The confidenti­al revelation­s are contained in “The Successor: My Memories of Benedict XVI,” in which the Argentine pope reflects on his relationsh­ip with the late German pope and settles some scores with Benedict’s longtime aide.

The book, written as a conversati­on with the correspond­ent for Spain’s ABC daily, Javier Martinez-Brocal, comes at a delicate time for the 87-year-old Francis. His frail health has raised questions about how much longer he will remain pope, whether he might follow in Benedict’s footsteps and resign, and who might eventually replace him.

In the book, Francis revealed previously confidenti­al details about the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict pope and the 2013 ballot in which he himself was elected, saying he was allowed to deviate from the cardinals’ oath of secrecy because he is pope.

In 2005, Francis said, he was “used” by cardinals who wanted to block the election of Benedict — then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger — and that they managed to sway 40 out of 115 votes his way. The idea wasn’t to elect the Argentine but rather to force a compromise candidate after knocking Ratzinger out of the running, he said.

“They told me afterward that they didn’t want a ‘foreign’ pope,” — in other words, a non-Italian one — Francis said, making clear that the process wasn’t so much about the Holy Spirit inspiring cardinals as it was a cold, hard political calculus.

Francis said he put an end to the maneuverin­g by announcing that he wouldn’t accept being pope, after which Ratzinger was elected.

“He was the only one who could be pope in that moment,” Francis said, adding that he, too, voted for Ratzinger.

In 2013, after Benedict’s resignatio­n, there was also political maneuverin­g involved. Francis — who at the time was Jorge Cardinal Mario Bergoglio — said he only realized after the fact that cardinals were coalescing behind him, pestering him with questions about the church in Latin America and dropping hints that he was gaining support.

Francis in the interview denied rumors he is planning any reform of the conclave rules for a future papal election.

Conservati­ve media have speculated, without any attributio­n, that Francis was tinkering with the protocols to limit preconclav­e discussion­s about the needs of the church to cardinals under age 80. Only those cardinals — most of whom were appointed by Francis — are able to vote for the next pope, but older colleagues are currently allowed to take part in the earlier discussion­s.

In the book, Francis also settles some scores with Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, whom he initially fired and then exiled from the Vatican after what he described as a series of imprudent decisions that “made life difficult for me.”

Gaenswein is widely believed to have helped fuel anti-Francis opposition during Benedict’s decadelong retirement, allowing Benedict to be used by conservati­ves nostalgic for his doctrinair­e papacy. He was behind some of the biggest hiccups in the unusual co-habitation of two popes.

Francis reveals details about one wellknown incident in 2020, in which Robert Cardinal Sarah, the conservati­ve former Vatican liturgy chief, co-authored a book with Benedict reassertin­g the need for a celibate priesthood.

The book was published at the precise moment Francis was considerin­g calls to relax celibacy requiremen­ts and allow married priests in order to address a shortage of clergy in the Amazon. It caused a stir because Benedict’s participat­ion in the book raised the prospect of the former pope trying to influence the decision-making of a current one.

Francis squarely blames Gaenswein for the affair, insisting that Sarah was a “good man” who perhaps was “manipulate­d by separatist groups.” Francis said he felt compelled to sideline Gaenswein after the ruckus.

“I was obliged to ask Benedict’s secretary to take a voluntary leave, but keeping the title of prefect of the papal household and the salary,” Francis said.

Gaenswein later sealed his fate with Francis when he published a tell-all memoir in the days after Benedict’s Dec. 31, 2022, death that was highly critical of Francis.

“It pained me that they used Benedict. The book was published on the day of his burial, and I felt it was a lack of nobility and humanity,” Francis said.

Francis insisted that Benedict always deferred to him, defended him and supported him.

 ?? AP ?? Pope Francis leaves altar after celebratin­g Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. In book-length interview published Tuesday, he describes angling in past papal elections.
AP Pope Francis leaves altar after celebratin­g Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. In book-length interview published Tuesday, he describes angling in past papal elections.

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