Picking a pontiff: The Conclave is underway

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Vatican City – Papal politics is pushing towards selecting a perfect Pontiff.  The process is underway at the Vatican.  The world’s 115 voting Cardinals have gathered to elect a new leader after Benedict’s resignation on February 28.

In the past century, picking a Pope has never taken the cardinals of the Catholic Church longer than five days.  Today is day one in the process.  The 115 cardinals of the Catholic Church are expected to vote for the first time at some time today, with the winner chosen as the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

As of 6:30 a.m., a papal mass is underway at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.  The mass is the beginning of papal picking process.  After the service, the 115 cardinals will head to the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel where all eyes will look to the sky while waiting for the church’s new leader.

The cardinals, along with about 90 members of the conclave staff, have taken an oath of secrecy Monday.  Smoke will be the first indicator of the voting process.  Black smoke means no pope.  White smoke will mean a new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“Regarding the first smoke that we might see the last time it was about eight o’clock, shortly after eight o’clock. It was a long time because there is the prayer, there is the voting, there is the meditation, the voting, so, don’t expect anything before eight o’clock,” said Father Tom Rosica, Vatican Spokesman.

“The prejudice against an American pope is waning,” said Vatican analyst John Thavis.

Several front runners have emerged including cardinals from Italy, Brazil and Ghana.   And for the first time, an American is being considered.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan from New York is considered a top contender.

“Cardinal Dolan has been, as we know, a pretty strong critic of the Obama administration, and I think in one sense that has helped the idea that an American can be elected pope,” Thavis said.

Italy potentially wields the most power, holding 28 of the 115 votes.  The Italians make it the largest bloc in the College of Cardinals. The United States is second with 11.  Sixty of the cardinals are from Europe and 67 were appointed by Benedict.

Anyone interested in locally taking part in the Papal Conclave can celebrate mass today with the leader of the Harrisburg Diocese, Bishop Joseph McFadden .  The mass will start at noon at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Harrisburg.

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