On March 3, 2013, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor—an alumnus of the St. Gallen mafia—met with then-Cardinal Bergoglio over risotto and wine. It was the evening before the pre-conclave general congregations—as Murphy-O’Connor recalls in his memoirs—and the old friends were discussing “the sort of person we felt the cardinals should elect.”
A day earlier, an anonymous cardinal had been quoted saying, “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.” Later, Murphy-O’Connor would utter that same phrase, adding: “But pray to God we have him for much longer than that.”
Murphy-O’Connor was, as his memoirs detail, arrested by the careening post-conciliar “runaway Church”—cracking open the “rather rigid and self-righteous” Church of the past. But Murphy-O’Connor understood that “incremental change is usually best”: the “trick” to keeping peace was to “let the leash out gently, so that you could allow things to develop while staying in control.”
Cardinal Bergoglio was the mafia’s chosen leader for this “gentle” revolution on a leash. In 2001, Bergoglio had been introduced to the mafia by its leader, the radical “ante-pope” Cardinal Carlo Martini. In the days before the 2005 conclave, Murphy-O’Connor sat with a gin and tonic giving his then-press secretary, Austen Ivereigh, hints about Bergoglio, the eventual runner-up. Now, in 2013, Murphy-O’Connor gave Ivereigh another tip-off that Bergoglio could well be the next pope.
For Murphy-O’Connor and other mafia alumni, including Cardinals Kasper and Danneels, had expertly toured pre-conclave gatherings promoting Bergoglio. And according to Marco Politi, on the evening of March 9, Murphy-O’Connor had met with Cardinals Kasper, Coccopalmerio, Bertello, Nicola, and Tauran to strategize seeking the backing of others. It is unclear whether one of the Italians in the group was the “influential Italian gentleman” who asked then-Cardinal McCarrick to “talk up” Bergoglio, but both McCarrick and Coccopalmerio gave early interviews pushing for a “Latin American” pope.
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