Francis Cardinal George prepares for conclave talks

March 4, 2013 5:46:45 AM PST
The Catholic Church's Archbishop of Chicago Francis Cardinal George had expected that the crucial pre-conclave meetings would be under way by now, he said.

"It's a serious moment now and all efforts are directed toward that choice," he said.

This is when the real pope candidate discussions will take place, as the cardinals formally come together Monday. Cardinal George is not going into this with a favorite in mind. He's doing his homework.

"I'm doing my work, studying pictures and bios and talking to others, so at this point, there's no clear sign other than staying with it," he said.

This is his second conclave so he's a veteran but he shies away from any suggestion that he might play a role as a papal kingmaker.

"I suppose if I came to a particular name that I thought was really it and I would vote for and somebody asked me, what that is, I would tell them," he said.

The fact Cardinal George is here is quite a thrill for Khalil Hattar from south suburban Tinley Park.

Sunday Hattar, a seminarian, took a major step toward the priesthood as he became an acolyte, one who serves the priest during mass.

"It's been a blessing for me to have him here, because he brings the people of Chicago with him," Hattar said.

Hattar is Arab-American with a Jordanian father and Palestinian mother, an example of Chicago's Catholic diversity-40-percent are immigrants.

"The one thing struck me we had no Catholic Arab priests in the archdiocese, that moved me to explore the priesthood more seriously," Hattar said.

Hattar's story reflects in some way the Catholic Church worldwide: diminishing influence in Europe but growth in Africa and Latin America.

It's a fact not lost on the cardinals as they meet in the morning and try to find the person who can best communicate their message, not only to Catholics, but to a world that is not always listening.