Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself was so confident that he would not be elected Pope, he had booked a return air ticket home to Argentina.
Fully expecting to be returning to Buenos Aires after the conclave, he had a flight booked from Rome next week, said Federico Wals, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Argentina.
But a determination among cardinals to give the papacy to a non-European for the first time in 1,300 years was the driving force behind the election of the Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis, it has emerged.
He was particularly appealing as a candidate to those cardinals who wanted the new pope to come from outside Europe, to reflect the fact that the Church is growing rapidly in many parts of the developing world while stagnating in Europe.
The South American was also aided by intense hostility and distrust among conservative cardinals towards Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, who had been widely tipped to be made pontiff.