Holy Name Cathedral holding services as conclave begins

March 12, 2013 3:17:20 PM PDT
The papal conclave process is being watched by millions of Catholics around the globe as they wait to learn who will be next leader of the church.

Many Roman Catholics believe the cardinals should elect a pope of color or a pope from the United States. What might be the effect of such moves?

While an American pope or one from Africa or South America is seriously being considered, the reality of that happening is a different story. Experts say it is going to be very difficult to find the right person because the cardinals are looking for someone with business management skills who has the personality of Pope John Paul II.

As the conclave began, Chicago Catholics went to mass to pray for the tough job that is before the College of Cardinals. For the first time, an American is being considered.

"Cardinal [Sean] O'Malley is said to be the favorite on the street in Rome," said DePaul's Bill Cavanaugh. "I think he is a possible candidate."

New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been talked about as well.

In the past, the cardinals never considered an American because of America's status as a superpower.

"They feel we already have enough influence," said U.S. Catholic Magazine's Meinrad Scherer-Emunds. "Why give them the papacy as well?"

But experts say this time is different because the cardinals are looking for a pope who can preach and manage the Vatican. Many say American cardinals bring the managerial trait to the table.

Despite the shifting of the world's Catholic population, the southern hemisphere is still under represented in the College of Cardinals. Sixty come from Europe, 18 from Italy alone, 19 from Latin America. Fourteen are North American, 11 from Africa and 10 cardinals are from Asia.

While some Chicago Catholics are hopeful for an American, many just want someone who will have the right personality to move the church forward.

"As long as they are qualified, that is what matters," said Tonie Kieres.

"If not an American, just someone that's really motivated to try to lead the Catholic people," said George Leverette.

The next pope also must be someone pleasing to the Italians. Besides the role of a global Catholic leader, the pope is the bishop of the archdiocese of Rome.

Despite the talk of an American, or pope of color, experts say cardinals are a group conservative people who tend to act conservatively.