Italian bishops thank God for wrong pope

VATICAN CITY Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:03pm IST

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy offers the host during mass at the Santi XII Apostoli (the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles) in Rome March 10, 2013. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy offers the host during mass at the Santi XII Apostoli (the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles) in Rome March 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Italian bishops were so convinced that one of their own would become pope that they sent a congratulatory message to the media thanking God for the election of a prelate from Milan.

The trouble was, the new pope had already been named as Argentinian cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

The secretary-general of the Italian conference, Monsignor Mariano Crociata, expressed "joy and thanks" to God for the election of Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan in a statement sent to reporters at 8:23 p.m. (19:23 GMT) on Wednesday night.

About 10 minutes earlier, Bergoglio had made his first appearance before the crowds in St. Peter's Square.

At 9:08 p.m. (20:08 GMT), the Italian bishops conference sent another statement thanking God for the election of the pope, but this time got the name right.

In the days leading up the secret conclave, many Italian newspapers openly promoted Scola as the next pope.

The newspapers - and the bishops conference - appear to have missed the warning contained in a traditional Italian saying that front-runners at a papal conclave are often disappointed.

"He who enters a conclave as a pope, leaves it as a cardinal," the saying goes. Perhaps it was never more true in the modern age than in the conclave that elected Bergoglio instead of the Italian favourite Scola.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Peter Graff)

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