Five Questions about the 2013 Conclave for the Historical Record

March 13, 2023 (Steven O’Reilly) – Today, March 13, 2023, marks the 10th anniversary of the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as pope. These have been a confusing, disturbing, and unsettling ten years to say the least in the Catholic Church. There are so many thing to point to that it is quite easy to have lost track. Certainly, questions over Amoris Laetitia, Abu Dhabi, Pachamama are among the more significant issues that a future pope will have to resolve in some fashion, perhaps playing the role toward Francis, what Pope Leo II played toward Honorius.

Roma Locuta Est has looked at some of the oddities surrounding the 2013 conclave. These have been included in a series of articles called the The Conclave Chronicles.  Many of these examined the events surrounding Cardinal Bergoglio, then-Cardinal McCarrick, the “influential Italian gentleman,” and some of the St. Gallen mafia activities at the time just prior to the conclav. Ten years into this pontificate, it is not likely that any set of facts would invalidate the conclave.  For example, conclave rules explicitly do not invalidate a papal election in the case of simony (cf UDG 78).  Thus, if campaigning on the basis of simony does not invalidate a papal election, how then would campaigning without simony invalidate one?  That said, question 5 below might involve issues related to secular authorities (cf UDG 80) but, here again, the problem would be the need to provide demonstrable evidence.

While in some ways it wouldn’t surprise me if “something” is out there that might do so, the reality is, it remains highly improbable.  One cannot act on speculation. Still, there are events at the time of the conclave that remain of interest in the opinion of Roma Locuta Est certainly from a historical perspective, if nothing else. The list below comes from the aforementioned Conclave Chronicles, and are briefly summarized in my LifeSiteNews article (see There are still many unsolved mysteries surrounding the 2013 election of Cdl. Bergoglio to the papacy), I expand on them below.

Question #1 : What was the nature and substance of the meeting and discussion between then Cardinal McCarrick and Archbishop Becciu on February 14, 2013?

First, we know Theodore McCarrick’s met in Rome with the Archbishop Becciu (later named Cardinal) on February 14, 2013 (see Figueirido Report). At the time, Becciu served in the important position of Substitute at the Vatican. The fact of this meeting must have been known to the McCarrick Report investigators, and the date of the meeting falls within the time period covered by this section of the report.  While it is true that Becciu has since been removed from his position at the Vatican due to suspicion of financial impropriety and corruption, he was at the time a very important, high-level official in the Vatican in the office of the Secretary of State. Surely he was available to the McCarrick Report investigators for comment, and in fact Becciu elsewhere in the report seemed to have some degree of knowledge of McCarrick’s crimes (e.g., see McCarrick Report, p. 401).  Why then was he not interviewed with regard to this February 14 meeting with McCarrick, or if he was, why were his remarks not included?

Roma Locuta Est has reported on the odd relationship between Francis and Becciu:

The Rehabilitation of Cardinal Becciu: what’s up with that?

What does Cardinal Becciu know about Francis?

Becciu claims Francis wants him dead!

Read the articles above. Roma Locuta Est finds this relationship between Becciu and Francis very strange.  We cannot help but say of Becciu in relation to the Francis pontificate, like Gandalf said of Gollum, “My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play in it, for good or evil, before this is over.”

Question #2:  Did Cardinal Bergoglio have an active role, and have foreknowledge of the famous “four years of Bergoglio” article?

The narrative pushed by the Bergolianisti that a ‘humble’ Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was “surprised” by his papal election run contrary to the evidence. Henry Sire’s book The Dictator Pope reported that Cardinal Bergoglio ‘plotted like mad’ after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. Even Gerard O’Connell’s friendly account of Bergoglio reports he took an active interest in events in Rome following Benedict’s resignation. Given such reports, it is difficult to accept Cardinal Bergoglio was passive when it came to his candidacy prior to the 2013 conclave.  It is also hard to accept that he was an unwitting beneficiary of the initiatives of others. Rather, there is reason to believe he took a very significant, and active role in his own election campaign.

Cardinal Bergoglio arrived in Rome on February 27, 2013, the day before the effective date of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation (February 28), in the run up to the pre-conclave meetings which began March 4. On the evening of his arrival, instead of dining with old friends in the College of Cardinals, the “humble” Bergoglio dined with four Italian journalists, all of whom were close friends and Bergoglian partisans. Two of whom were very influential Vaticanisti, Andrea Tornielli and Gianni Valente; just the sort who could update the Cardinal on all the latest news and rumors in Rome, published and unpublished, about the coming conclave.

On the morning of March 2, 2013, Tornielli published in Vatican Insider a glowing profile on Bergoglio. Oddly, he did not mention he had dined with him only a few evenings before. It is certainly possible he didn’t mention it because the conversation was off the record, but even that would mean they discussed the topic of Benedict’s successor. So, Tornielli’s subsequent reporting is interesting. Quoting an anonymous cardinal, the Torntielli’s article opens with the now well-known line which famously read: “Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.”

For Cardinal-electors attentively following the latest news on the upcoming conclave as they gathered in Rome, the article undoubtedly had the practical effect of boosting Cardinal Bergoglio’s papal prospects. Was it just a stroke of luck for Bergoglio that his good friend Tornielli penned this article, or was there more to it? Did Bergoglio have foreknowledge of the article?  Did Bergoglio, perhaps, in fact provide the famous “Four years” quote himself to Tornielli, i.e., was he the “anonymous” cardinal?

To consider that question of Bergoglio’s potential relationships with these journalists, let us fast forward five years to when Cardinal Bergoglio was now Pope Francis. In August 2018, Archbishop Vigano released his famous Testimony which shocked the Catholic world with its accusations and evidence that top prelates in the Church, including Francis, looked the other way with regard to the allegations against then-Cardinal McCarrick. At the time, many waited for Francis to respond to these accusations. The opportunity came during an inflight press conference when Francis was returning from Ireland.

Speaking to reporters in an airplane press conference, Pope Francis refused to comment on Vigano’s accusations, choosing instead to respond quite obscurely:

“I will not say a single word about this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions. It’s an act of faith. When some time passes and you have drawn your conclusions, I may speak. But, I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you. That’s good.”

Pope Francis insisted that it should be journalists who “do the work” of assessing the accusations against him.  This was an incredible assertion, given that he was best positioned to directly respond to their questions. Yet, it appears Francis’s bizarre statement can be attributed to something most journalists didn’t know.  A little over two months later, the Pope’s seeming “act of faith” in the journalistic profession was rewarded when a newly published book attempted to shift any blame for McCarrick away from Francis and onto others, while at the same time attacking Vigano’s personal credibility. So, was it simply that the Pope’s “act of faith” paid off, or was else at play?

The reality is, that book was authored by Francis’s journalist-friends, Tornielli and Valente, with whom he had dined with upon his arrival in Rome for the conclave.  Given the timing of the book, it certainly appears Tornielli and Valente were already at work on their McCarrick book with the Pope’s foreknowledge and active support.  Who knows, the idea for the book may have come from him months earlier before Vigano’s Testimony when the seminarian story involving McCarrick had come out.  Even then, Francis could see that this would be a problem for himself.  In December 2018, one month after the publication of this defense of Francis, Tornielli was appointed by Pope Francis as editorial director of the Dicastery of Communication at the Vatican.

Given the fact pattern, one could be excused for surmising Pope Francis had a direct hand in the genesis of Tornielli’s and Valente’s book. The unsolved mystery here is: did Pope Francis have a hand as well in the genesis of Tornielli’s “four years of Bergoglio” article of March 2, 2013? As a side note, as many as three different cardinals and a layman have been cited by as many as three different journalists and McCarrick as having spoken the line that ‘four/five years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things.’ The one thing common to them all is that each was a close friend of Cardinal Bergoglio. So, was Bergoglio the original source of this talking point, crafted to put cardinal-electors at ease about his advanced age at the time?

Question #3: Did Bergoglio send the “influential Italian gentleman” as an emissary to then Cardinal McCarrick in order to seek his support in the pre-Conclave meetings? 

McCarrick was very influential among his fellow American cardinals, and particularly so among third world cardinals whose support, as ‘pope-maker’ Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told Gerard O’Connell, was key to Bergoglio’s election. Per McCarrick’s account from October 2013, seven months after Bergoglio’s election, the ex-cardinal was visited just before the pre-conclave meetings at the North American College in Rome by an “influential Italian gentleman,” on or about March 2nd or 3rd of 2013. This unnamed visitor asked McCarrick to ‘talk up Bergoglio’ in the meetings before the conclave.

The identity of the “influential Italian gentleman” remains a mystery to this day. Even so, there seems to be at least one strong, possible candidate as to whom he might be. One man we have researched is Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the community of San Egidio (see The “Influential Italian Gentleman”: A Sant’Egidio Connection?).

There are a number of factors which make him a strong candidates:  (1) McCarrick’s description of the “influential Italian” fits Riccardi well; (2) the reporting of Sandro Magister indicates Riccardi had previously engaged in papal campaigning during the 2006 conclave, i.e., he’s done this before; (3) Riccardi is a long time, self-professed “convinced Bergoglian;” and (4) he is known to have been very close to Cardinal Bergoglio and McCarrick.

Now, regardless of who this man really is, we cannot demonstrate that Bergoglio asked the “influential Italian gentleman” to approach McCarrick on his behalf.  But, if he had, the reason Bergoglio might use an intermediary would be to avoid the appearance of campaigning for the papacy, as would appear to be the case if Bergoglio had shown up at the North American College in person. In the latter case, he risked being observed by other American cardinals.

Roma Locuta Est has written over a half dozen articles on this “influential Italian gentlemen”:

The “Influential Italian Gentleman”

Questions Regarding the “Influential Italian Gentleman”

The 7th Anniversary of McCarrick’s “Influential Italian Gentleman”

The Influential Italian Gentleman: McCarrick “touted the praises” of Bergoglio Prior to the Conclave

The “Influential Italian Gentleman”: A Sant’Egidio Connection?

Six Degrees of the “Influential Italian Gentleman”?

Glaring Omission in McCarrick Report: What about the “Influential Italian Gentleman?”

On the 8th Anniversary of McCarrick’s “Influential Italian Gentleman”

Question #4:  Did the McCarrick Report cover up the connections between Bergoglio, McCarrick, and the “influential Italian gentleman”?

In August 2018, Archbishop Vigano’s Testimony made mention of McCarrick’s meeting with the “influential Italian gentleman”.  McCarrick had publicly spoken about it.  Vigano cited this meeting to accuse Francis of rewarding McCarrick for actively supporting his election. It is interesting to note that the McCarrick Report investigators did their best to try to rebut Vigano’s various accusations against Pope Francis. However, their report failed to even mention McCarrick’s meeting with the “influential Italian gentleman” which formed the implicit premise of Vigano’s accusation, i.e., that the “influential Italian gentleman” was an emissary sent by Cardinal Bergoglio.

Not only did the report not attempt to address whether McCarrick had in fact ‘talked up Bergoglio,’ it actually tried to downplay his role in the pre-conclave meetings (McCarrick Report, p. 391, footnote 1198), saying:

“…. McCarrick was visible during the General Congregations in 2013, meeting daily with the other cardinals. Neither cardinals nor journalists raised issues about his presence. In an interview, Pope Francis vaguely recalled McCarrick’s presence during the Congregations, but did not recollect having any discussions with him.”

This statement is absurd.  The issue is not whether questions were raised about McCarrick’s presence, or whether he was “visible” or not!  The question is what was McCarrick doing and saying during the pre-Conclave meetings, i.e., was he campaigning for Bergoglio as alleged by Vigano! To say McCarrick was “visible” is certainly an understatement.

The McCarrick Report investigators made no apparent effort to determine the truth of Vigano’s implicit claim. However, had they bothered to look they would have found evidence. For example, Roma Locuta Est was the first to find contemporaneous evidence which demonstrated McCarrick was observed to have been quite active in “touting the praises” of Bergoglio before the conclave to all who would listen.  This is information that the McCarrick Report investigators certainly should have come across if they were doing a thorough investigation, and which is relevant to Vigano’s accusation. Or, did they find this evidence but just chose not to report it?

Separately, even more, Roma Locuta Est received firsthand, eye witness information from a prelate who encountered McCarrick in Rome immediately following the election of Francis:

“His (McCarrick’s) very first words to me, before he said anything else – indicating that he had been part of a group working on this – were, “We did it.”  The words left me surprised and pondering. Since I was not involved in any campaign, it seemed to me that McCarrick had been.”

Why didn’t the McCarrick Report investigators interview Pope Francis or McCarrick about the “influential Italian gentleman”? Why did the McCarrick Report not uncover this information about MCarrick “touting the praises” of Bergoglio prior to his election, and even claiming come credit for it, i.e., “we did it”?

Question #5:  Was there a plot, assisted by Italian government officials, to torpedo Cardinal Scola before the conclave by generating embarrassing headlines the morning of the conclave?

The curious case of Cardinal Scola is another “unsolved mystery” of the conclave as noted in my LifeSiteNews article. Scola was a close friend of Benedict XVI.  The Cardinal was considered a leading papabile in the period leading up to the 2013 conclave. He was the odds on favorite to be elected pope according to the oddsmakers. One might wonder if the thought that his friend Scola would be a leading candidate gave Benedict XVI some comfort when he decided to resign — or indeed, whether this expectation contributed to his decision to resign.

However, at dawn on the morning the conclave was to begin (later in the afternoon), Italian anti-mafia police raided businesses associated with Roberto Formigoni, a close friend of Cardinal Scola. The international press reports that morning, surely seen by the cardinal-electors, highlighted Scola’s links to Formigoni, and to Communione e Liberazione (controversial for some on the left). The focus of these press reports was on the claim the raids would negatively impact Scola’s chances in the conclave, i.e., due to his associations with Formigoni, and CL.

Certainly, if something similar happened in the United States right before a political election, the political candidate hurt by such a story would certainly cry foul, claiming the timing of such a raid was politically motivated. Given the Italian prosecutors are notoriously political, the timing of the raids is undoubtedly suspicious.  The question here is whether the timing of the raids was an unfortunate coincidence for Scola, or willfully coordinated to create embarrassing headlines about him, by forces interested in tipping the scales of the conclave in favor of Bergoglio.

Roma Locuta Est has published two articles on this topic.

The Forgotten ‘October Surprise’ of the 2013 Conclave

The Forgotten ‘October Surprise’ (Part II): Cui Bono?

It’s also interesting to note the Scola angle of the story disappeared after the conclave doors were shut.  Further, the various books about the conclave fail to even mention the raids, or the impact these headlines and press accounts might have had on Scola’s chances.

Final Thoughts

We have reviewed some of the curious questions or ‘mysteries’ surrounding the 2013 conclave. Whether or not the events and activities above ultimately have an innocent explanation or not, there is at least one question, “Cui bono?”, that has an answer. The answer to that question is clear: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

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. He has written apologetic articles, and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms; and of Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI(Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at  or (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on GETTR, TruthSocial, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).

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