In Francis, cardinals recognized need for 'new style of papacy'

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VATICAN CITY -- Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis because he fit the profile the cardinals were looking for, analysts said Thursday.

"It was the cardinals recognizing that the church's universal center needed a new style of papacy, one that was simpler and more focused on standing with the poor," said longtime Vatican reporter John Thavis, author of "The Vatican Diaries."

"They also wanted someone to restore order in the Roman Curia and make it less of a barrier between bishops and the pope," he said.

Thavis said his sources were telling him Bergoglio "spoke up clearly and forcefully during general congregations" the week before "and got the cardinals' attention." Thavis reported that Monday, the day before the conclave convened.

Bergoglio, the cardinal of Buenos Aires, was elected pope Wednesday on the College of Cardinals' fifth vote -- one of the fewest number of votes in papal history. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, made it in four votes. John Paul II was elected after eight ballots.

That he was elected so quickly showed he was not a compromise candidate of factions among the 115 cardinals, church experts said. Rather, he had strong support from the outset as their first choice.

"He obviously entered with some gravitas," said Jason Berry, author of "Vows of Silence" about the Vatican and the church sex abuse scandal. "He obviously had people behind him from the outset."

The quick selection also showed the cardinals were not as split over many issues as widely reported, said Dennis Coday, editor of the Kansas City-based National Catholic Reporter.

"The cardinals showed unity at the same time the media portrayed them as divided," he said.

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Before the conclave, Bergoglio wasn't at the top of the lists of candidates that Vatican experts, pundits and journalists considered most likely to become the next pope.

Much of the misreading of what the cardinals were doing behind closed doors as they selected the new pope is being laid at the feet of the Italian press. It reported on who the front-runners were, and much of the international media and church experts took their lead, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

"This shows that the Italian press doesn't know what it is talking about when it comes to the papal election," said Reese, who is in Rome. "We were all fools for paying attention. The Vaticanistas are supposed to know all this stuff. They obviously didn't."

"This election shows the utter fallibility of the Italian press," Berry said.

The major Italian papers had reported a tight race shaping up between candidates, including Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy and Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Brazil.

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston were also mentioned as potential candidates -- the first time Americans seemed to have a serious chance.

"No one ever took Bergoglio seriously, even though he came in second last time" behind Benedict XVI, Berry said.

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