Pope Francis leaves the Sistine Chapel after being elected pope
On the night of March 10, Fr Thomas Rosica was walking through the Piazza Navona in Rome's historic centre when he bumped into Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, whom he has known for years. Bergoglio was walking alone, wearing a simple black cassock, and he stopped and grabbed Rosica's hands, reports NCR Online.
"I want you to pray for me," the Argentine cardinal told Rosica, a Canadian priest who was assisting as a Vatican spokesman during the papal interregnum. Rosica asked him if he was nervous. "A little bit," Bergoglio said.
He had reason to be worried. Two days later, on Tuesday evening, he and 114 other cardinals entered the conclave to elect a successor to Benedict XVI; a little more than 24 hours and five ballots after that, Bergoglio emerged on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica as Pope Francis.
It was a surprising outcome, and even if Bergoglio suspected something was up, few others did, including many of the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel with him.
"I think it all came together in an extraordinary fashion," Chicago Cardinal Francis George told the Chicago Tribune.
George said Bergoglio's name had not surfaced as an option in the week of closed-door discussions among the cardinals before the conclave, and Bergoglio had also dropped off the radar of most journalists.
He was 76, and many cardinals said they would not vote for someone older than 70. Bergoglio was also reportedly the runner-up to Benedict in the conclave of 2005 and unlikely to return as a candidate.
"I wouldn't have expected it to happen either this fast or even the way it developed in terms of the choices available to us," George said. "I believe the Holy Spirit makes clear which way we should go. And we went that way very quickly."
FULL STORY The inside story on Pope Francis' election (NCR)