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April 29, 2019

The Unexpected Abdication of Pope Benedict XVI and the Unexpected Election of Pope Francis

By Thomas Farrell

Are you interested in the unexpected abdication of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013 and the unexpected election of Pope Francis? If you are, then you might be interested in Gerard O'Connell's new short book The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave That Changed History (Orbis Books, 2019). It is a well-informed and well-written day-by-day account -- terse and fast paced.


thierry Ehrmann le 112 me est Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), painted portrait DDC_7829
thierry Ehrmann le 112 me est Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), painted portrait DDC_7829
(Image by Abode of Chaos)
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 29, 2019: Because I have often published OEN pieces about Pope Francis and about books about him, I feel that I should now alert OEN readers to the new book The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave That Changed History (Orbis Books, 2019).

I recently published "Pope Francis on Evil and Satan" dated March 24, 2019, at OEN:

Incidentally, perhaps I should mention here that the editor-in-chief of Orbis Books is Robert Ellsberg, the son of Daniel Ellsberg who became famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) in 1971 for releasing The Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

The new book is written by a pious practicing Catholic for pious practicing Catholics and published by a niche publishing house that caters to pious practicing Catholics. There is not a word of criticism in the book of the man elected pope in March 2013 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

The author is the Irish-born journalist living in Rome Gerard O'Connell, who has covered the Vatican since 1985. At the present time, he is the Vatican correspondent for the Jesuit-sponsored magazine America, based in New York City.

O'Connell is married to the Italian-born Argentinian journalist Elisabetta Pique, who published the book Pope Francis: Life and Revolution: A Biography of Jorge Bergoglio (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014; orig. Spanish ed. published in Buenos Aires, 2013). O'Connell frequently mentions her (see the index for specific page references).

O'Connell says, "In 2005 he [Cardinal Bergoglio] baptized Juan Pablo, our first child, in the church of San Ignacio, the oldest Catholic church in Buenos Aires, and did likewise for Carolina, our second, in 2007" (page 44).

Now, I have not been a practicing Catholic for years, but I enjoyed the book and I imagine that others will also enjoy it. It is a well-written and well-informed account of the speculations and rumors and gossip reported by journalists, including the author, concerning the unexpected abdication of Pope Benedict XVI and the unexpected election of Pope Francis.

Of course, the pope is formally the bishop of Rome. Consequently, Italian journalists cover the pope and the Vatican rather closely, as do non-Italian journalists from around the world.

Have you followed the speculations and rumors and gossip reported by journalists about the 20 candidates who are now contending for the Democratic Party's nomination as its presidential candidate in 2020? If you have, that kind of reporting by journalists is the kind of reporting by journalists that O'Connell highlights in his book. But, of course, there were no officially declared candidates running for pope in 2013 there were just certain cardinals on the radar of certain other cardinal-gossips and the journalists who reported their gossip.

Because O'Connell and his wife and children were friends of Cardinal Bergoglio, O'Connell makes it abundantly clear that the 76-year-old Bergoglio was not considered to be a serious contender after Benedict announced his abdication because of his age. But Benedict himself was 78 when he was elected pope in the 2005 conclave, as O'Connell notes (see, for example, pages 54, 70, 97). (In the 2005 conclave, Bergoglio was the runner-up.)

In the days leading up to the 2013 conclave, the cardinals who had arrived in Rome met in a supposedly secret session in which a cardinal could address his fellow cardinals for up to five minutes. When it became Bergoglio's turn to speak, he delivered a three-and-a-half-minute speech in Spanish that galvanized many of his fellow cardinals (pages 153-155). Nevertheless, when the conclave formally began, he was not elected on the first ballot.

Now, for a less pious discussion of Benedict and Francis and the Vatican, see the openly gay French author Frederic Martel's new book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, translated by Shaun Whiteside (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019). But I'd advise you to take claims based on Martel's gaydar with a grain of salt.

I first commented on Martel's book in my OEN piece "Are Homophobic Vatican Clerics Secretly Homosexual?" dated February 18, 2019:

Subsequently, I discussed his book in detail in my OEN piece "Perceptive Book About Gay Vatican Clerics" dated February 25, 2019:

Now, just as I advise you to take claims based on Martel's gaydar with a grain of salt, so too I'd advise you to take claims about the exact vote count in each round of voting in the conclave based on O'Connell's unidentified source(s) with a grain of salt. You see, each of the 115 cardinal-electors swore an oath of secrecy about the proceedings in the conclave. In the church's canon law, violating such an oath is an act of self-excommunication from the church.

In any event, Dr. Maike Hickson discussed O'Connell's new book at length in a piece published online at a conservative Catholic website:

The columnist Michael Sean Winters discussed O'Connell's new book online at a liberal Catholic website:

Authors Website:

Authors Bio:

Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book WALTER ONG'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO CULTURAL STUDIES: THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE WORD AND I-THOU COMMUNICATION (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2000; 2nd ed. 2009, forthcoming). The first edition won the 2001 Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology conferred by the Media Ecology Association. For further information about his education and his publications, see his UMD homepage: Click here to visit Dr. Farrell's homepage.

On September 10 and 22, 2009, he discussed Walter Ong's work on the blog radio talk show "Ethics Talk" that is hosted by Hope May in philosophy at Central Michigan University. Each hour-long show has been archived and is available for people who missed the live broadcast to listen to. Here are the website addresses for the two archived shows:

Click here to listen the Technologizing of the Word Interview

Click here to listen the Ramus, Method & The Decay of Dialogue Interview