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Pope Francis: Call me John? It might have been, RNS says

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11 2014 2:00 p.m. MST

Had he been elected to his current job eight years earlier — when he came in second during the Vatican conclave that gave us Pope Benedict XVI — Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio might have been known as John XXIV.

That detail has emerged in a book authored by longtime "Vaticanisti" (as journalists covering the Holy See are known) Gianluca Barile. Religion News Service reporter and blogger David Gibson made mention of it today. It was disclosed in Barile's new book on Pope Francis, who apparently revealed this to Cardinal Francesco Marchisano during or after the 2005 conclave. Bergoglio was elected Pope in 2013 and chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, becoming the first pontiff named Francis.

Feb. 11, 2014 marks the one-year anniversary of Benedict's announcement that he would step down, becoming the first Pope to leave office in 600 years.

"John, I would have called myself John, like the Good Pope; I would have been completely inspired by him," Bergoglio reportedly told Marchisano. Ironically, Marchisano, who is 84, lost the right to participate in a papal conclave on his 80th birthday in 2009, so he could not vote for Bergoglio at last year's session.

Choosing to be named after the Good Pope, whose calling of the Second Vatican Council led to reforms some hardliners in the church have chaffed at would have troubled such conservatives further, Gibson noted. He added, "Francis still frequently cites Pope John, an icon to progressive Catholics, and he will formally declare John XXIII a saint in April."

Read Gibson's blog entry on Religion News Service.

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