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Benedict's landslide the biggest in history


By Bruce Johnston, Barney Zwartz and Desmond O'Grady in Rome

Sat 23 Apr, 12.56pm 

Pope Benedict swept to victory in this week's Vatican conclave, winning the election by a landslide and receiving probably the most votes of any papal race in history, it has been disclosed. 

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was favored by an overwhelming number of his Fellow "princes of the church", said reports on Thursday. 

The support for the German-born cardinal was likely to have been no less than 90 and possibly 107 of the maximum 115 votes minus the winning candidate. 

If the higher figure were true, the new Pope achieved even more resounding thumbs-up than his predecessor, John Paul II. 

There are already some leaks about the conclave voting. Allegedly, in the First vote on Monday evening, both Ratzinger and Martini, the retired archbishop Of Milan, each received about 40 of the 115 votes. However Martini, who like Ratzinger is 78, was not considered a genuine candidate because he has Pa rkinson's disease. His supporters switched to the middle-of-the-road Dionigi Tettamanzi, Martini's successor in Milan and long considered the frontrunner to succeed John Paul. 

This was to his disadvantage: one elector is supposed to have said: "Tettamanzi has already been pope for too long." His support did not grow. 

On Tuesday morning Ratzinger almost reached the necessary two-thirds of 77 votes. In the first vote of the afternoon, he is said to have come near 100. 

The manoeuvring before his victory seemed to gainsay the usual claims of cardinals that the Holy Spirit alone determined their choice of Benedict XVI. 

Other cardinals have sought to depict the human side of the new Pope, notwithstanding his austere image as John Paul's intransigent enforcer of orthodoxy. 

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the Pope's image as a German "panzerkardinal" was unfair. "He is human and he will convince you," he said. "He is both a man of science and of faith. He possesses a great sense of humanity, he loves nature and music." 

Cardinal Ratzinger was also a cat-lover. "Every time he met a cat he would talk to it, sometimes for a long time," Cardinal Bertone said. "The cat would follow him. Once about 10 cats followed him into the Vatican and one of the Swiss Guards had to intervene, saying, 'Look, your eminence, the cats are invading the Holy See'." 

It has been revealed that the chimney in the Sistine Chapel did not draw on Tuesday and the traditional white smoke, announcing to those gathered in St Peter's Square that the Pope has been elected, blew back over the cardinals. 

"Thank goodness there were no art historians present," said Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, referring to the Michelangelo paintings in the chapel. 



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved