By Pat Ciarrocchi
TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — After seeing black smoke rising from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, the Catholic world knew that a pope is still to be elected. The voting resumes in the morning on Wednesday.
In Trenton, the diocesan cathedral was filled with prayer, led by Trenton Bishop David O’Connell, who is waiting for a new shepherd too.
With a laugh, he told reporters, “Long live the Pope!”
As of Monday night, we just don’t know who that will be. That’s why Bishop O’Connell led his congregation in prayer, asking for guidance for the 115 cardinal electors engaged in a sacred duty.
“I think they’re going to need my prayers,” said Bishop O’Connell. “But I don’t think it’s going to be a long conclave.”
O’Connell believes the days leading up to the start of the conclave gave the Cardinals an opportunity to look around the room and ask, “Could he be Pope?”
Speculation that a U.S. cardinal — like Timothy Dolan of New York or Sean O’Malley of Boston — could be chosen is an unlikely scenario.
“A super power in the Church, especially with 1.2 billion Catholics,” said Bishop O’Connell, “Is something that people might be a little uncomfortable with.”
Before becoming Trenton’s Bishop, O’Connell was President of Catholic University in Washington, where he hosted Pope Benedict XVI in 2008. Twice, he also hosted a cardinal who is now a leading candidate — a Papabile — among the Italian contingent. He is Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan.
“He speaks English beautifully,” said Bishop O’Connell, “He is a very competent scholarly man, a kind and good man. To see a person like that moving forward on the list of contenders is exciting for me to be able to say, ‘Geeze, I know the guy.’”
Among the congregants were Rick and Betty Barry of Trenton. They said they can see how the issues of the modern world need the right leader.
“This is good, maybe,” said Betty. “There will be a lot of good house cleaning and we’ll move on.”
Rick called it a balancing act. That’s why he’s praying for the cardinals.
Bishop O’Connell says that Catholics need to feel welcome in the Church. But also, they have to understand that if they’re expecting the Church to change its teaching on marriage, or the ordination of women, or priests being able to marry, they’re setting themselves up for disappointment.