Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, who was himself widely tipped as a possible successor to Pope Benedict, said he had personally had two “strong signs” that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was “the chosen one” in the run up to vote.

He said only divine intervention could explain the speed with which the Argentine Cardinal - who did not feature on any of the main lists of likely candidates compiled by Vatican experts - was elected.

Speaking to an Anglican conference in London, he also said the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, had a “strange similarity” to the new Pope.

He said that the two elections were a “little miracle” and a “sign from the Lord” that the two churches should work towards closer unity.