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Archbishop Aymond said this should be an exciting time for local Catholics

Cardinals to gather inside Sistine Chapel to select new pope. Cardinals to gather inside Sistine Chapel to select new pope.

New Orleans, La.—The chapel known for Michelangelo's artwork is the focus of worldwide attention for a different reason. The next leader of the Roman Catholic Church will be chosen there and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said local Catholics have reason to be excited about what will ultimately happen there.

"They will begin with mass and then they will process to the Sistine Chapel and there will be one vote tomorrow afternoon," said Archbishop Aymond. Other votes will be taken following that.

Aymond said what will transpire inside the papal conclave is no small matter for the faithful.

"Well, first of all it's an exciting time, a new pope is being elected, it's history in the making," Aymond said.

"The papal conclave involves a lot of ritual, it's very complex," said Tom Ryan, Director of Loyola University Institute for Ministry.

Since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI there has been an ocean of speculation about which cardinal would be chosen to succeed him.

Two Americans, Cardinals Sean O'Malley and Timothy Dolan, have been mentioned as possible strong candidates along with cardinals from Italy, Africa, and South America.

Aymond said he knows the two American cardinals but said he has no idea who will be chosen to occupy the pontificate.

"I don't think there is a clear front runner and I think the cardinals have been very honest in saying that. A lot of people have the perception that the cardinals know one another very well, and they really don't they meet infrequently," Aymond said.

He said Pope Benedict was elected on the fourth ballot and the late Pope John Paul was chosen on the eighth ballot.

"I think it would be a big surprise to us if it was an American, but the Holy Spirit is guiding the process," he said.

He said a lot of prayer goes into the selection process.

"As always we would be looking for a man of holiness," he said.

Dr. Ryan said besides the spiritual requirements the new pope should have managerial skills.

"Someone who's able to manage the church bureaucracy which is spread around the world," said Ryan.

Ryan said the cardinals cannot turn a blind eye to other problems confronting the church like the sex abuse allegations.

"It's crucial that the cardinals take into account what's going on in the church," Ryan stated.

Even though he thinks the growth of the church in places like Africa and South America could help cardinals from those areas, he believes a cardinal from Europe may have the edge.

"Italian cardinals make up one-third of the cardinals, so they have the biggest voting block," Ryan said.

Ryan said the U.S. church's hard line stance against priest sex abuse is a plus for the two American cardinals mentioned as possible top tier contenders.

"Cardinal O'Malley from Boston has really dealt decisively with it there," Ryan said.

Aymond said the world has changed a great deal since the last pope was chosen.

"I'm sure that age is something that will be considered over these days that the cardinals have been together, they have not been discussing names, but they have been discussing the qualities of the next pope that they would want. They have been discussing the needs of the church, the gifts of the church, the challenges of the church," continued Aymond.

Aymond said once a new pontiff is chosen in Rome a special mass will be held in New Orleans at Saint Louis Cathedral.

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