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Pope Francis says he urged fellow cardinals to back Benedict XVI in 2005 conclave

Pope Francis and Benedict XVI (CNS)

Pope Francis has revealed that he urged his fellow cardinals to back Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to become Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He said he had felt that the time was not yet right for a Latin American pope.

The revelation comes in a new interview book by an Argentinian journalist, Latinoamérica: Conversaciones con Hernán Reyes Alcaide. Reyes is the Rome correspondent of the Argentine news agency Telam.

The interview marked the tenth anniversary of a highly significant general conference of the Latin-American bishops in Aparecida, Brazil in May 2007, two years after Cardinal Ratzinger’s accession as Pope Benedict XVI.

In the 2005 conclave, according to the secret diary of an Italian cardinal revealed later that year, Cardinal Bergoglio had a lot of support from reformist cardinals – but he asked his fellow cardinals to give their support to Cardinal Ratzinger.

“Notwithstanding the action of the Holy Spirit that acts in the conclave, at that moment in history the only man with the stature, the wisdom and the necessary experience to be elected was Ratzinger,” Pope Francis said in the interview.

“Otherwise there existed the danger of electing a ‘compromise pope’. And electing a ‘compromise pope’ is not, let’s say, very Gospel-like.”

Before the conclave, according to Austen Ivereigh on Crux, a Uruguayan historian, Alberto Methol Ferré, had said in a newspaper interview that “it wasn’t the moment for a Latin-American pope and that Ratzinger was the most suitable candidate”. In his interview with Reyes, Pope Francis said he had shared this view, and that when he had read Methol’s interview before the conclave he had thought it was “a superb insight”.

The then Cardinal Bergoglio played a key role in drafting the concluding document of the Aparecida conference, which called for a “continental mission”, a Church that actively searching for ways to proclaim the Gospel to all. When in Colombia in September Pope Francis said that “Aparecida is a treasure yet to be fully exploited”.