The Church remains "Pope-less" this evening after the electors of the College of Cardinals took their first secret ballot and, as expected, did not give one man the necessary two-thirds majority. Indeed, the black smoke seemed especially black as it poured out of that little chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Knowing there would be only one ballot on this first day of the conclave, the huge crowd in St. Peter's Square dispersed within minutes and either headed back to their homes or made their way to one of Rome's wonderful restaurants, many within easy walking distance of the square.
I must admit, I feel a slight touch of envy toward those fortunate enough to be in Rome during this exciting time. At my age this might well be the last conclave in my lifetime. For the first time in my life, many of the papabili are either my age or younger. As a priest friend of mine said to me some years ago, "You know you're getting old when you're older than the Pope."
How long will it take before the Cardinals decide on the man who will be the next Vicar of Christ on earth? I noticed that Timothy Cardinal Dolan of NY predicted a brief conclave, just a couple of days. And yet others think it will take more time than usual because there is no obvious "front-runner", if I may be excused for using this obviously political term.I suppose the only correct answer is, "Only the Holy Spirit knows."
"Where will be next Pope be from?" is the question the media never tires of asking. From Milan, or Brazil, or the Philippines, or Hungary, or Africa, or Canada, or even the United States? The truth is, it doesn't matter. If the Catholic Church is truly catholic, if it is the universal Church founded by Jesus Christ, the Church that displayed its catholicity under the leadership of St. Peter on that first Pentecost, the Church that spoke that very first day in the tongues of the entire world -- if this is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, then the nationality of the next Pope is unimportant. Far more important that he be holy and humble and strong and Catholic.
Let's all join together tonight in prayer, and ask the Holy Spirit to give us the Pope that the Church and the world needs.
How exciting it will be to once again hear those words, "Habemus Papam."
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