ROME — March 13, 2013. Only hours before commencement of the Mass that preceded the opening of the papal conclave yesterday, anti-Mafia squads conducted raids on homes, offices, medical clinics and hospitals in the Lombardy region of Italy in connection with an investigation of corruption in the Italian health care industry.
A principal target of the investigation is Roberto Formigoni, a regional administrator who is a close friend of Cardinal Angelo Scola, widely perceived as a leading conservative candidate for the papacy in the papal election now underway in the Sistine Chapel. Both Formigioni and Scola are tied to the controversial Communion and Liberation movement.
The raids are being spun by the Italian press as a blow to the Scola candidacy, given his friendship with Formigioni and their mutual involvement in Communion and Liberation, from which Scola had recently been distancing himself according to Italian press reports.
Scola, a “Ratzingerian conservative,” is seen as one of the candidates most likely to address allegations of financial and other corruption in the Vatican administration presided over by the Secretariat of State, whose current head is Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, successor to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 85. Sodano is head of the College of Cardinals, but has no vote in the conclave as cardinals 80 and older are ineligible to vote in papal elections.
Before the raids yesterday morning, Scola's candidacy was said to have the support of at least 50 of the 115 cardinals now voting in the conclave, a bloc of votes that could easily have served as the nucleus for his election by the requisite 2/3 majority.
The timing of the raid, just hours before the cardinals entered into the sequestered environs of the conclave, where they will have no news from the outside world, has raised suspicions. “I find it remarkable that, even though these raids must have been months or even years in the planning, they were timed to coincide exactly with the last news cycle that would be available to the cardinals before they entered the Sistine Chapel to vote,” said John Vennari of Catholic Family News, who is covering the conclave for the newspaper and The Fatima Crusader magazine.
Providing another perspective, Father Nicholas Gruner, head of the Fatima Center, observed that “political maneuvers of this sort ought not to determine the outcome of papal conclaves, nor popular designations of 'conservative' or 'liberal' candidates, nor personal interests of the cardinals. The cardinals must be guided solely by the honor and glory of God and the salvation of souls, as Saint Alphonsus Liguori says.”
It is widely expected that the conclave will be over by tomorrow or Friday at the latest. Whether Scola emerges as Pope may well depend upon the last-minute impact of the police raids in Lombardy.
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