The new pope: Resources for reporters

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is now Pope Francis, the 265th successor to St. Peter, after his election in the Sistine Chapel by the 115 electors of the College of Cardinals. This edition of ReligionLink provides resources and regular news updates for reporters covering this historic event.


Francis is both the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church.

The cardinals began meeting in Rome for preliminary talks, called “general congregations,” on Monday, March 4. The actual conclave at which they began voting – by secret ballot, and secluded from the outside world – started eight days later.

There were 117 cardinals under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote when Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation took effect on Feb. 28; two of them said they would not take part, leaving 115 electors. By tradition, the new pope was chosen from among them.

Conclaves in the last century have lasted on average about three days.

The announcement and reactions


International sources

  • John L. Allen Jr.

    John L. Allen Jr. is editor of Crux, a website specializing in coverage of the Catholic Church. He previously was the longtime Rome correspondent for National Catholic Reporter. Allen is considered a top Vaticanologist and a leading English-language expert and commentator on the papacy.

  • Robert Mickens

    Robert Mickens is editor-in-chief at Global Pulse, a Catholic magazine. He has been the Vatican correspondent for The Tablet, a Catholic weekly published in London. He is based in Rome.

National sources

  • Christopher Bellitto

    Christopher Bellitto is chair of the history department at Kean University in New Jersey, where he has taught a course on the papacy. He has also written many articles on Catholicism and is a regular television commentator on Vatican stories.

  • Gregory R. Erlandson

    Gregory R. Erlandson is president of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, which is based in Indiana and produced a number of Pope Benedict XVI’s works. Erlandson is co-author of the 2010 book Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal. He also worked in Rome covering the Vatican for Catholic News Service.

  • Joseph Fessio

    The Rev. Joseph Fessio is a close friend and former theology student of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Fessio is widely considered one of the most influential conservative voices in the American church, and he is an outspoken opponent of allowing gay men into the priesthood. Fessio is the editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press in San Francisco, which was the English-language publisher for Benedict’s books. Fessio spends much of his time in Naples, Fla. Contact through Rose Trabbic, media representative for Ignatius Press.

  • Chester L. Gillis

    Chester L. Gillis is dean of Georgetown College, a professor in the department of theology and director of the Program on the Church and Interreligious Dialogue in the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. He is an expert in Catholocism and the editor of The Political Papacy: John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Their Influence.

  • Mary Ann Glendon

    Mary Ann Glendon is the Learned Hand Professor at Harvard Law School and was a vocal advocate of  Pope John Paul II’s views on women, abortion, sexuality and related issues. In 2004 the pope appointed her as head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, at that time the highest Vatican post ever held by a woman. From 2008 to 2009 she was the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

  • Jeannine Gramick

    Sister Jeannine Gramick was ordered to stop ministering to homosexuals by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1999. She has defied Vatican orders to cease her ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics. Contact her through the organization she co-founded, New Ways Ministry, in Mount Rainier, Md.

  • Stanley M. Hauerwas

    Stanley M. Hauerwas is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. He wrote “Why Abortion Is a Religious Issue” for the book The Church and Abortion: In Search of New Ground for Response.

  • Robert P. Imbelli

    The Rev. Robert P. Imbelli is an associate professor emeritus of theology at Boston College and has written and commented widely on the theology and policies of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

  • J. Peter Pham

    J. Peter Pham is former director of the William R. Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University in Virginia. He is also a former Vatican diplomat who worked under John Paul II and is author of Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession. Currently, he is the director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center. Pham is a frequent commentator on papal politics and processes.

  • Thomas Reese

    The Rev. Thomas J. Reese is a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for Religion News Service. He writes and comments widely on Catholic culture and politics. He is the author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church

  • Jon M. Sweeney

    Jon M. Sweeney is the author of Strange Heaven: The Virgin Mary as Woman, Mother, Disciple and Advocate. He includes Mary in the Old and New Testaments, in various mystical texts including the Quran and the texts that inspired Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ screenplay, and apparitions and visions, the rosary, feast days and issues of difficult dogma for Protestants, including the Immaculate Conception. He’s also the author of The Pope Who Quit, which tells the story of Pope St. Celestine V. 

  • George Weigel

    George Weigel is an orthodox-minded Catholic theologian and distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He is the author of God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (2005) and Witness to Hope (1999), which is essentially the authorized biography of Pope John Paul’s papacy. Weigel also wrote The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II : The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010).

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • Lisa Sowle Cahill

    Lisa Sowle Cahill is a professor of theology at Boston College who has written about genetics from a Christian perspective. Her books include Theological Bioethics: Participation, Justice and Change and Bioethics and the Common Good.

  • Nancy Dallavalle

    Nancy Dallavalle is an associate professor of religious studies at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., where she teaches a course on the papacy. She is an expert on popes and the papacy, the pope as a world leader and media treatment of the pope.

  • Paul Lakeland

    Paul Lakeland holds the Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Chair in Catholic Studies at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. His areas of expertise include the role of the laity in the church and recentralization of authority under recent popes.

  • Kurt Martens

    Kurt Martens is an associate professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Martens is an expert on papal elections, the Roman Curia, the Holy See and Vatican City State.

  • Paul McPartlan

    Paul McPartlan is Carl J. Peter Professor of Systematic Theology and Ecumenism at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. McPartlan’s areas of expertise include ecumenism, especially Catholic-Orthodox relations; and Vatican II. He is a member of the International Theological Commission, a group of 30 theologians who advise the Vatican on theological issues.

  • Stephen D. Miles

    Stephen D. Miles is associate professor of theology at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. His teaching and research interests include the Catholic Church and the pope.

  • Rocco Palmo

    Rocco Palmo runs the blog Whispers in the Loggia, one of the most popular sites in the Catholic blogosphere. He is a frequently quoted expert on Vatican developments and was formerly a Philadelphia-based U.S. correspondent for The Tablet of London.

  • Kenneth Pennington

    Kenneth Pennington holds the Kelly-Quinn Chair of Ecclesiastical and Legal History at the Catholic University of America and is an expert in church history and canon law. He has written extensively about the papacy.

  • Stephen Pope

    Stephen Pope is a professor of theology at Boston College and a frequent commentator on church affairs and the papacy. He is author of The Evolution of Altruism and the Ordering of Love and writes about different forms of love in Christian thought, Christian ethics, justice, and charity, and evolutionary theory.

  • Christopher Ruddy

    Christopher Ruddy is an associate professor of historical and systematic theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He wrote about the theology of Pope Benedict in a June 3, 2005, Commonweal magazine article titled “No Restorationist.”

  • Mathew N. Schmalz

    Mathew N. Schmalz is a professor of religious studies at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He specializes in global Catholicism, the papacy and Catholicism/culture issues in the U.S. His article “Scientology and Catholicism Do Mix: A Note on Teaching New Religions in a Catholic Classroom” appeared in the January 2006 edition of the journal Teaching Theology & Religion. He wrote a 2018 piece titled “Can you be Christian and support the death penalty?”

  • Greg Tobin

    Greg Tobin is senior adviser for communications at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and author of Holy Father: Pope Benedict XVI: Pontiff for a New Era.

  • Robert Wister

    The Rev. Robert Wister is a leading expert on the history of the papacy. He is a professor of church history at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. He earned a doctorate in church history at the Gregorian University in Rome.

  • Thomas Worcester

    The Rev. Thomas Worcester is a history professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where he teaches a course on the papacy. He is co-editor of The Papacy Since 1500: From Italian Prince to Universal Pastor (2010).

In the South

  • Charles E. Curran

    Charles E. Curran is the Scurlock Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He specializes in moral theology, social ethics and the role of the church as a moral and political actor in society. He is a liberal theologian who was dismissed from Catholic University of America for his teachings on human sexuality after an extended struggle, which included meetings with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Curran can also comment on the politics of the papacy.

  • Gerald P. Fogarty

    The Rev. Gerald P. Fogarty is a professor of religious studies and history at the University of Virginia and an expert on the Vatican. He is the author of several books on Catholicism and the papacy. His essay “The Papacy: From Low Regard to High Esteem” is part of a 2000 collection from Liturgical Press titled The Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century.

  • William F. Maestri

    The Rev. William F. Maestri is a theologian and spokesman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans with a specialty in bioethics. He can talk about Pope John Paul II’s philosophical defense of human dignity in all contexts — medical, economic, etc.

  • Phillip Thompson

    Phillip Thompson is executive director of Emory University’s Aquinas Center of Theology. The Aquinas Center is one of four independent Catholic intellectual centers at a non-Catholic U.S. university.

In the Midwest

  • Steven M. Avella

    The Rev. Steven M. Avella is associate professor of history at Marquette University in Milwaukee and an expert on American Catholic history and the history of the American West.

  • Peter J. Bernardi

    The Rev. Peter J. Bernardi is an associate professor of religious studies at Loyola University in Chicago. He can talk about the papacy in the contemporary world. He contributed an essay to the collection in Catholicism Contending With Modernity: Roman Catholic Modernism and Anti-Modernism in Historical Context.

  • Dennis Doyle

    Dennis Doyle is a professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton and a frequent commentator and author on Catholic issues and the papacy.

    Contact: 937-229-4219.
  • Michael A. Fahey

    The Rev. Michael A. Fahey is professor emeritus of theological studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He is an expert on the history and office of the papacy, and papal elections.

In the West

  • Allan Figueroa Deck

    Allan Figueroa Deck is a lecturer of pastoral studies in Spanish at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He has commented on the importance of Hispanics to the Catholic Church in the United States.

  • James Eblen

    The Rev. James Eblen is a professor emeritus in Seattle University’s school of theology and ministry who can speak about the papacy.

  • Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu

    Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu is assistant professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and is an expert in Latino theology. She is fluent in Spanish.

  • Charles Hilken

    Brother Charles Hilken is a history professor at St. Mary’s College of California. Papal elections and the history of the papacy are among his areas of expertise.

  • Patrick Howell

    The Rev. Patrick Howell is vice president for mission and ministry at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University. He co-edited the book Empowering Authority: The Charisms of Episcopacy and Primacy in the Church Today. He has frequently written about Pope Benedict XVI for the Seattle Times.

  • Christopher Kaczor

    Christopher Kaczor is a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and author of The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church: Distinguishing Fact From Fiction About Catholicism, in which he discusses the papacy. He can discuss Benedict’s legacy.

  • Dorian Llywelyn

    The Rev. Dorian Llywelyn is chair of the Catholic studies program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is fluent in Spanish and can discuss the church’s changing demographics.

  • Thomas P. Rausch

    The Rev. Thomas P. Rausch is a professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. A Catholic priest, Rausch is the author of Authority and Leadership in the Church: Past Directions and Future Possibilities.

Related source guides