Preliminary meetings are underway at Vatican City as Roman Catholic cardinals gather to elect a new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Bishop James Conley of the Lincoln Diocese acknowledges the conclave intrigues many.
“There is a lot of mystery to it. There’s a lot tradition to it. There’s a lot of ritual,” Conley tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Conley has some knowledge of the process, having worked at the Vatican from 1996 to 2006. He knew Pope Benedict well and says he has great respect and esteem for him. Benedict, elected at the age of 78, served for nearly eight years before decided to step down. He is the first pope to resign in 600 years.
Benedict succeeded John Paul II, a man of energy who traveled throughout the world during his 20 years as leader of the Roman Catholics. Conley says John Paul had a huge impact that went well beyond just Catholicism.
“He really did, I think, transform the Papacy for the modern world and really made the Papacy universal, for everyone, that everyone can call him the Pope and look to him as their Pope,” Conley says.
There are 150 cardinals. Only those under the age of 80, 115 of them, enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave. They vote until a new Pope is chosen, signaled by the famous white smoke.
For now, the cardinals will hold informal discussions, getting to know each other before the voting starts.
The conclave has a deadline of sorts; hoping to have a new Pope in place in time for Palm Sunday and Easter.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]