Last night black smoke poured out of the Sistine Chapel smoke stack, leaving no doubt that a single cardinal was unable to reach the two-thirds of the vote needed to be elected the next Pope.
In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – according to a cardinal’s diary published in 2006 in the Italian magazine Limes – got 47 votes out of 115 on the first scrutiny, and the consensus around him grew until he overtook the two-thirds margin on the fourth vote and was elected Pope. The election lasted less than one full day.
But this time around, will there be a cardinal that can accomplish Cardinal Ratzinger’s feat? Apparently the answer is no.
According to several sources who gave their analyses to CNA before the conclave – including a cardinal’s secretary and some personnel who work inside the Vatican – three cardinals entered the conclave with a considerable package of votes: the Brazilian Odilo Pedro Scherer, the Canadian Marc Ouellet and the American Timothy Dolan.
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan probably took a portion of the votes, but not as much as one might expect.
He comes from Communion and Liberation – a Church movement that has pontifical approval and whose founder’s cause for sainthood is being considered – but he has worked to shed the image of being a movement follower.
Cardinal Scola, who is well connected with the media, was reported by the Italian daily La Stampa as addressing head-on the issue of whether or not he is considered a papal contender, saying that he did not want to hear anyone approach him with a deal or a bargain.
And Rocco Buttiglione – an Italian politician who is a long-time friend of Scola – gave an interview recently to the Italian newspaper Il Giornale in which he explained “Scola distanced himself from Communion and Liberation almost 20 years ago, when the most political faction of the ecclesiastical movement (which he did not agree with) came to power.”
The Communion and Liberation scandals are mostly an Italian story. During the 1990s, many members of the movement entered politics. Things were more or less uneventful until 2012, when some of them were investigated for allegations of kickbacks and money laundering.
These developments meant that Scola needed to improve his image in the Italian press.
He will not presumably get the votes of Italian cardinals, and he will not probably get the votes of the Latin-American cardinals.
On Italian side, Scola’s appointment to an important archdiocese made part of the country’s bishops very upset. He was appointed Archbishop of Milan from his previous post as Patriarch of Venice, in an unprecedented decision by Pope Benedict XVI. There were many within the Italian episcopate that either wanted to be appointed to Milan or to have one of their protégés in the post.
The Latin American cardinals just have a different approach to the papal vote and not many of them seem to appreciate Communion and Liberation.
But Scola is able to build a certain consensus in Europe – where bishops and priests appreciated his theological works. He also is looked upon favorably in some Middle-Eastern countries as well, thanks to Oasis, a magazine and cultural center he that created as a bridge to the East. The magazine is in multiple languages including Arabic and Urdu, with showed his attention to Islam and Christianity in those countries.
Scola’s candidacy is one that will result from a compromise among the cardinals, and he knows that.
The prominent Vatican analyst Sandro Magister told CNA March 12 that this is why Scola would back Dolan as the new Pope for the first rounds of voting.
According to a source aware of their discussions, Cardinal Dolan could have received nearly all 11 votes from the American cardinals as well.
The anonymous source said that Cardinal Francis George called on his fellow Americans to “vote for Timothy,” at least in the first ballots, likely resulting in a consensus of around 20 or 30 votes.
He could make the cut to be the next Pope, but he needs to reach the 77-vote threshold by the fifth scrutiny, which will take place Wednesday evening.
If no clear candidate emerges by the fifth round, the cardinals will seek a new person.
Cardinal Scola is a likely a compromise solution. He could be planning a late entry into the race, after the cardinals see that the initial candidates are not able to draw enough votes.
According to a March 12 report in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Scola had secured the backing of up to 50 electors prior to the conclave starting. He is still far from the 77 cardinals needed to be the new Pope, but maybe – if he enters the race this afternoon – he will get some of the votes that previously went to Scherer and Dolan.
It seems possible that the cardinals will not reach an agreement even today. In that case, the new Pope would be elected on Thursday, at the third day of scrutiny.
Names to watch as possible second round candidates are: Cardinal Vinko Pulji of Sarajevo, who earned respect for his work in Catholic-Muslim dialogue; Cardinal Péter Erd? of Budapest, a canon law expert who is of the Ratzinger school, and would also get the vote of Cardinal Bertone’s side of the Curia cardinals who are now presumably voting for Cardinal Ouellet; and finally Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht in the Netherlands who is respected among the European Episcopal Conferences and is well regarded in Rome.
Will the new Pope come from this set of three?
Knowing for sure what the cardinals are inclined to do would help the analysis, but the nature of conclaves is that nothing is ever certain. Inside the Sistine Chapel’s walls the cardinals’ tendencies and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit might make things very different than what they were on outside.