On the 8th Anniversary of the Election of Cardinal Bergoglio

March 13, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – Today is the eight anniversary of the election of Pope Francis.  I wasn’t planning on marking this year’s anniversary with an article, as I had last year (see The 7th Anniversary of the Election of Cardinal Bergoglio), or as I had on the 8th anniversary of the “influential Italian gentleman” (see On the 8th Anniversary of McCarrick’s “Influential Italian Gentleman”).  Rather, I had originally planned to spend the full day working on Book II of the PIA FIDELIS historical-fiction trilogy I am writing, set in the days of the Arian crisis, and the rise of Julian the Apostate

Yet…before continuing onto that ongoing project, I happened upon an article that discussed Archbishop Ganswein’s ‘infamous’ speech on Pope Benedict (see full speech here). Ganswein’s talk in May of 2016 was given on the occasion of a book presentation, i.e., author Roberto Regoli’s book on the Pope Benedict BXVI’s papacy. [NB: Those following the “Benedict is Pope” (BiP) controversy will recall that speech, and the interpretations given to it by BiP-ers.  Roma Locuta Est has offered its take on the overall BiP controversy (here), and specifically on Ganswein’s speech (here, and here).]

While the article by Andrea Gagliarducci (see Pope Francis’ dilemma is the dilemma of Today’s Church, May 30, 2016) discussed Ganswein’s speech at the Regoli book presentation in brief, that is not the point of this article. Rather, what caught my eye is that Gagliarducci’s article went on to mention something of which I had not been previously aware. That ‘something’ is that Andrea Riccardi had also spoken at the same Regoli book presentation on the same day[1] as Ganswein. Followers of this blog may remember that Andrea Riccardi appears a possible candidate to be McCarrick’s mysterious “influential Italian gentleman” (see here, here, here, and here; and see also The Conclave Chronicles).

Given the above, I was naturally curious as to what Gagliarducci had to say of Riccardi’s talk.  Just before he discusses Riccardi, Gagliarducci recalls that Ganswein spoke of the St. Gallen Mafia, saying:

“Joseph Ratzinger, after one of the shortest elections in the history of the Church, was elected after only four ballots following a dramatic struggle between the so-called ‘Salt of the Earth Party’ gathered around Cardinals Lopez Trujillo, Ruini, Herranz, Rouco Varela and Medina, and the so-called ‘St. Gallen Group’ gathered around Cardinals Danneels, Martini, Silvestrini and Murphy O’Connor – a group that Cardinal Danneels himself recently amusedly described as a sort of ‘mafia club’.”

Gagliarducci writes that “Archbishop Gaenswein’s words certify the existence of an internal struggle. Perhaps, this internal struggle is the key to the many attacks on Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Just so, the outcome of the struggle is the “charm offensive” around Pope Francis’ pontificate.”  

Gagliarducci then moves on regarding this “struggle,” writing of Riccardi’s speech at the Regoli book presentation (emphasis added):

That the struggle is still ongoing is attested by some details of Andrea Riccardi’s talk at the same book presentation. Founder of the Sant’Egidio Community, Riccardi wanted to underscore that in the end the St. Gallen Group had not so much importance and weight, since some of its members could not take part in the Conclave (those over 80 years of age can no longer take part in a conclave). In his talk, Riccardi even spoke about a conclave made up of cardinals who did not know how to elect a Pope.

Why did Riccardi made (sic) these remarks, in spite of the fact that his talk was full of praise for Benedict XVI? Perhaps the reason is that Sant’Egidio, with his social initiatives, with its tireless work with refugees, with its initiative of creating humanitarian corridors that Pope Francis appreciates (so much that the Pope made of the Holy See a humanitarian corridor on his way back from Lesbos) is now a key actor on the Vatican chessboard, while it was not so under Pope Benedict XVI. Under Pope Francis, Sant’Egidio is free to play at being a sort of diplomatic outpost: this has always been the secret goal of the movement, even thought they were not so free to act in this way during past pontificates….

Andrea Riccardi, readers of this blog may recall, would appear to be a possible candidate to be ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s “influential Italian gentleman” (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman”: A Sant’Egidio Connection?).  Whether Riccardi is McCarrick’s mysterious visitor or not, it is curious that he sought to downplay the involvement of the St. Gallen mafia at the 2013 conclave on the basis of their advanced age, i.e., their inability to vote in the conclave. Surely, Riccardi is one who knows that influence over many may be more important than a solitary vote.  That is to say, Riccardi is no stranger to lobbying before a conclave, as Italian journalist Sandro Magister describes (emphasis added):

“On the eve of the conclave of 2005 he carried out an incessant lobbying effort among the cardinals, in order to block the Ratzinger candidacy and to push that of Dionigi Tettamanzi, at the time the archbishop of Milan.” (Source: Sandro Magister, Between “Gay” Marriage and Elections. Can the Pope Trust Andrea Riccardi?, January 10, 2013)

Indeed, even as far back as 1998, Magister, commenting on the Community of Sant’Egidio founded by Riccardi, wrote (emphasis added):

But they´ll get their way. The members of Sant´Egidio are few in number. It´s difficult for them to make new recruits, and many leave. But they think of themselves as “the ant capable of doing great things with modest resources.” They are a powerful lobby. They will influence the conclave that elects the next Pope. No Church leader wants to have them as an enemy. Riccardi frequently says to his followers: “We must seem to be more than what we really are. That is our miracle: the great bluff.” (Source: Sandro Magister, The Story of Sant´Egidio. The Great Bluff. April 9, 1998)

Given the above, it is curious that Riccardi, a man of influence, would downplay the possibility of the St. Gallen mafia’s influence at the conclave which elected Cardinal Bergoglio simply because they could not vote.  Riccardi, per Magister as noted above, had lobbied before another conclave and was an anti-Ratzingerian, and he described himself as a “convinced Bergoglian” (see here).  The latter two points are, coincidentally, something he held in common with the members of the St. Gallen mafia.  Did Riccardi lobby cardinals prior to the March 2013 conclave as he reportedly had in 2005?  Was he the Italian who McCarrick said lobbied him (see The “we” in “We did it!” — and what they did)?  Why would he downplay the role of the St. Gallen mafia as Gagliarducci suggests?

All interesting questions, and good ones for a professional journalist to ask the relevant parties. As I have observed elsewhere, McCarrick’s meeting with the “influential Italian gentleman” must have been known to the McCarrick report investigators — as it was included in Archbishop Vigano’s Testimony. Given these McCarrick Report investigators were responding in part to what Vigano alleged regarding McCarrick and Pope Francis, it is odd there is no mention of this meeting in the McCarrick Report (NB: The full report may be found here). The exclusion cannot be a simple oversight (see Glaring Omission in McCarrick Report: What about the “Influential Italian Gentleman?”). 

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com  or StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler or Gab: @StevenOReilly).


  1.  Riccardi’s full talk in Italian may be found here

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