Local Catholics Ponder Next Pope As Conclave Looms

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Who the next pope will be is now the topic of discussion in pews around the globe, including here in north Alabama.

The selection process for picking the future pope is called the papal conclave, which is now likely just days away. The 115 cardinals who will choose the pope from among their peers will begin meetings in the Vatican on Monday. The cardinals are expected to set a date for the conclave's start sometime this week.

Like many local Catholics, Father Joseph Lubrano is keeping tabs on what's happening in the Vatican. Lubrano is the head priest at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Huntsville, and said history has not been kind to cardinals on the frontrunner list, with a dark horse emerging more often than not.

"It could be an American, could be an African, could be an Asian, could be another Italian, who knows," said Fr. Lubrano. "That's part of what the conclave is all about, is a time to really pray and discern... When you look at history, some of the people that have been elected pope were not even on  the short list.  I know a lot of people say 'Cardinal A, Cardinal B, Cardinal C are all in the running.'  But I kind of leave it up to the Holy Spirit, and let the Holy Spirit guide the cardinals."

Fr. Lubrano said the next pope will likely be at least few years younger than former Pope Benedict due to the nature of his recent resignation.  A still crippling priest sex abuse scandal and increasing secularization are the main challenges for the next pope.

"I think they have to be very pastoral," said Lubrano. "He has to be able to steer the church into the future."

Several cardinals have recently said they would prefer to have a new pope installed by the start of Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday on March 24th.