Italy sighs as unholy alliance scuppers the home favourite for pope, Angelo Scola

Infighting between senior Italian cardinals repelled Church figures from overseas


That many Italians – both inside and outside the holy city – were hoping for a return to a “traditional” Italian pontificate after a gap of 35 years is not in doubt.

The Italian Bishops Conference had even prepared a message congratulating the Italian favourite, Angelo Scola, which, to much amusement, it sent out in error on Wednesday evening.

But within hours of cardinals entering the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday afternoon to begin the laborious task of electing a new pope, it was clear the knives were out for Cardinal Scola, the Archbishop of Milan.

Cardinal Scola, the bookies’ choice and leader of the Catholic world’s largest diocese, was surprised, if not a little shocked, to have been beaten by an unfancied Argentinian Cardinal in the very first round, according to La Stampa’s Vatican correspondent. Jorge Mario Bergoglio didn’t have enough votes for outright victory, but by then, the die was cast.

An unholy alliance between two other Italian grandees, Tarcisio Bertone and Angelo Sodano, who by all accounts can’t stand each other, had set the ball rolling for Cardinal Bergoglio. Overseas conclave members determined to put and end to the warring Italians’ stranglehold on the Curia joined in. When the pragmatic and powerful American grouping led by New York’s Timothy Dolan backed the Argentinian’s cause it was all over for Cardinal Scola. Leading Vaticanologist Massimo Franco spoke for many pundits this morning when he said years of infighting between senior Italian cardinals had repelled Church figures from overseas. Instead, Pope Francis represented a fresh start – and a more global, inclusive Church.  That fresh start needs a new government. Pope Francis’s most important appointment will be that of secretary of state – effectively prime minister to the Pontiff’s supreme monarch.

Choosing the occupant of this powerful post takes on a special significance this time around, given the dreadful mess the last Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is considered to have made of it. Cardinal Bertone was seen to have accumulated too much power over the Vatican’s finances for himself and close associates, as well as presiding over the Holy See’s calamitous diplomatic relations, which in the past two years have broken down with Beijing and Dublin.

His power and the number of enemies he made – including powerful figures such as Cardinal Scola and Cardinal Sodano – were said to be at the heart of the infighting that has riven the Vatican in the reign of Benedict XVI.

Holy See spokesman Federico Lombardi said today that Francis might ask for the current Vatican administration to remain in place – but only for a few weeks to allow himself breathing space. Vatican expert Gerard O’Connell, who writes for La Stampa’s Vatican Insider noted: “He’s only just been elected. All his things are in Argentina. There’s holy week coming up. We can’t expect much to happen before Easter.”

But he was in no doubt that soon after Pope Francis  would shake up the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s sclerotic administrative body. Mr O’Connell said under the new Pope there would be “a very new style of government”  and that his new secretary of state – and de facto premier – “would be a very different sort of person”. He added: “Francis will lead by example. He will say to people, ‘We’re here to do the work of the gospel, not to promote ourselves’.” He also noted  that some fresh faces and even some surprises might lie in store for the musty corridors of the Holy City.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions