chapter  9
8 Pages

He Might Have Been Pope

WithMartin Kramer

The election of the Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis in March 2013 took seasoned Vatican observers by surprise. For someone reputed to be the Pope's Kissinger', treating with the wider world seemed like the perfect assignment. The Italian-born Pignedoli started off as a naval chaplain in the Second World War, and he later built a reputation over many years as a roving Vatican emissary. The energetic and gregarious Pignedoli quickly concluded that he should launch a campaign to improve Vatican relations with the world of Islam. The Catholic Church had its ear to the ground in Muslim lands, and had picked up the rumbling of the coming Islamic resurgence. The new cardinal thought that the Vatican could diminish Muslim-Christian tensions by engaging a reputable Muslim partner in a conciliatory religious dialogue. For non-Muslims, it is often tempting to see Saudi Arabia, seat of Islam's holiest places, as some sort of "center" of the Islamic faith.