Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, received the fourth most votes in the first round at the last conclave.
These findings about the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, who is a close adviser to Francis, are fruits of a recent book by Gerry O’Connell, Irish-born Vatican veteran journalist and correspondent for America magazine, called ‘The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave That Changed History‘ (Orbis Books, 2019).
The first print run sold out on-line before the book launch, and even before any copy had reached the bookshops. Orbis Books had to do a second printing immediately before publication date. The interest has spread to other countries too and the book will appear in French and Portuguese (Brazil) translations in the coming months, and is expected to be published in Italian, Spanish and Polish in due course.
Gerry’s book takes readers day by day through the last conclave, a conclave that was unlike any other in centuries as it happened only due to the voluntary resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, who said on Feb. 11, 2013, he no longer had the strength to continue guiding the Barque of St. Peter.
Beyond various insider details recounted, Gerry also sheds light on how he and his wife, well-known Argentinian Vatican journalist of La Nacion, Elizabetta Pique, had Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, their friend, to their home for dinner before the conclave began.
Other results, less known, are presented in this work. For instance, it details that in the first voting session of the last conclave, Cardinal Scola had 30 votes, coming in first place, Cardinal Bergoglio, 26 votes, coming in second, Cardinal Ouellet, with 22 votes, coming in third, Cardinal O’Malley, with 10 votes, coming in fourth, and Cardinal Scherer, with four votes, coming in sixth.
“Seán O’Malley was a surprise,” Gerry notes, stating that “with 10 votes, he became the first American in history to score so highly in any papal election.”
Cardinal O’Malley, O’Connell explains, was very well-liked by the Romans, and well known for preferring to wear his Franciscan habit, to cardinal’s robes. Moreover, interestingly enough, he recalls when the Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero, “ran an article in which it wondered whether O’Malley, who has been touted as papabile, could emerge as Francis I!”
“He must surely have read this on his iPad” on his way to the packed parish where he would be celebrating Mass that morning, Gerry joked, “because he went out of his way to assure the congregation that after the conclave, he would return to the small room in the diocesan seminary where he lives, ever since he sold the archbishop’s residence to compensate victims of sexual abuse by priests.”
He also observed that Scola, although being first, was expected to receive many more votes, and that Bergoglio being second, too was a surprise, and that one vote in his favor could not be considered because the cardinal elector had written ‘Broglio.’
Besides these front-runners, five cardinals received two votes each in that first ballot: Christoph Schönborn, Peter Turkson, George Pell, Laurent Monswengo Pasinya and Timothy Dolan.
Turning to American Cardinals, O’Connell mentions various times Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and recalls when the New York Times spoke on Sirius XM satellite radio, and “declared that it’s “highly possible” that the next pope could be non-European.”
“To think that there might be a pope from North America, to
think that there might be a pope from Latin America, a pope from Asia,
a pope from Africa, I think that’s highly possible, don’t you?”
However, O’Connell points out how he jokingly dismissed the idea that he might himself be chosen as the next pope.
“I could be the next shortstop of the Yankees too. Everything is possible!”
Cardinal Dolan quipped.
In any case, any person interested in better understanding the inner workings of a conclave, and in particular, one as riveting and unexpected as the last one, which would ultimately elect the first Pope from the Americas, ought to add this to their reading list.
“The election of the first pope from Latin America, where almost half of the world’s Catholics live, marked a seismic change in the history of the church,” O’Connell told ZENIT when asked what inspired him to write his book.
“It came as a great surprise to most people,” he admitted. “Since then, many have sought to understand how this happened, especially given the fact that three days before the election Cardinal Bergoglio was not even considered among the possible candidates to succeed Benedict XVI.”
“I decided to write this book to explain how this happened because both before and after the conclave,” O’Connell told ZENIT, noting: “and over the five years since then, I obtained so much inside information on what led to his election as pope and what actually happened inside the conclave that I felt I could make a significant contribution not only for the historical record but also to enable ordinary people understand how the Spirit of God worked in totally unexpected ways in guiding the cardinal electors in those days.”
The author told ZENIT he reflected for a long time on how best to write this book, and then one night, had the idea to do so, in the form of a diary, starting on Feb. 11, the day Benedict XVI announced his resignation, and ending with the inauguration day of Francis’ pontificate, March 19.
“The decision to write it as a diary was a crucial one,” he said, noting: “it allowed me to capture the dynamics of the whole process, and to provide color as well as historical facts, anecdotes and analysis in a way that could attract the reader. ”
Some in the Vatican have said there appears to be no precedent for a book like this on a conclave, with such detailed information.
Asked about feedback he has received on his work, Gerry shared smiling: “Some cardinals who participated in the conclave and read the book have confirmed that it is an accurate account of what happened. One of them told the author “you have hit the nail on the head.”’
On the NET:
‘The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave That Changed History,’ by Gerry O’Connell (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/Election-Pope-Francis-Account-Conclave/dp/1626983194