The process of selecting a new leader of the Catholic Church is underway and an Iowa Bishop says it’s a great time for all Catholics. Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese recently returned from representing the U.S. at the installation of the new patriarch of the church in Baghdad, Iraq.
“It’s an exciting time I think for the church that’s obviously this is of international interest. As I was traveling, numerous people came up to me and asked me about the church, about the conclave and what the expectations might be. So, it’s tremendously exciting,” Pates says.
The 115 cardinals will vote four times a day until a new pope is selected. Bishop Pates thinks it may take some time. “I expect there’ll be maybe two or three days, maybe four that they’ll elect a successor to Benedict, and we can move forward with some renewed and fresh vigor,” according to Pates.
The ballots are burned after each vote, and black smoke indicates no decision, while white smoke means a new pope has been selected. Pates is not willing to speculate on who may emerge once the white smoke is seen.
“The saying is ‘the one who enters the conclave as pope comes out cardinal,’ so it’s really hard to determine exactly who it might be…the cardinals usually come up with a surprise as they did with Pope John Paul the second being Polish and even with Benedict being German, ” Pates says.
“I think there is wide anticipation that there would be a welcoming of somebody from North America, South America or even Africa at this point. Even Asia I should says too.” The decision of Pope Benedict to step down caught many by surprise, as it was the first time a pope had done so in 600 years.