Italian bishops celebrate election of wrong pope

Italian bishops were red-faced Thursday after releasing a statement thanking God for the election of the archbishop of Milan to the papacy -- though the new pope's home bastion is quite a bit farther afield in Buenos Aires.

Apparently ultra-confident that one of their own would snag the Vatican's top job as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, the bishops expressed "joy and thanks" to God for the election of Cardinal Angelo Scola.

The message was sent to the media just minutes after Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio appeared Wednesday on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica to an ecstatic crowd.

Mariano Crociata, secretary-general of the bishops' conference, quickly released a correction -- but the gaffe was widely reported by Italian media on Thursday.

Scola had been repeatedly tipped to win the papacy in the run-up to the conclave.

A win by the Milanese prelate would have returned the papacy to a centuries-long line of Italians.