VATICAN CITY, Italy– It is officially the first day of Conclave and Catholics around the world are watching as the process of naming a new Pope gets underway.
Of course, the biggest question, aside from who will become the next Pope, is where the new Pope will come from. Growth of the Catholic Church has slowed in Europe and the United States. But, it has been expanding in places like Asia, South America and Africa, leading some to believe the new pope will come from one of those continents. It was an African, Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, who was seen as a front-runner when Pope John Paul the Second died in 2005. But now, at the age of 80, some feel he is too old.
The cardinals are expected to cast their first vote this afternoon, with more rounds of voting to come over the next few days. The clear choice must have two-thirds vote.
The Vatican spokesman said we can expect to see the first signs of smoke later today, but it likely will not be white, which means a decision has been made.
The United States has 11 of the 115 votes, making it second only to Italy. The longest conclave held since the turn of the 20th century has lasted for five days. If a Pope is not chosen after the fourth day, the cardinals will pause on the fifth day to pray and hear a speech from the Senior Cardinal.