CHICAGO - Chicago's Cardinal Francis George will play a major role in the discussion church leaders will have as they select Pope Benedict XVI's successor in mid-March. Having had a part in the process that led to Pope Benedict's selection, Cardinal George is experienced in the process, but he also represents a very diverse Catholic community. For the first time, there's talk that the Church's next Holy Father may be from the Southern Hemisphere.
The Tribune's Manya A. Brachear learned from Chicago's Cardinal George about what goes on when the Sistine Chapel doors close and before Catholics all over the world learn who their next pope will be:
Once the doors of the Sistine Chapel close, the activities inside are carefully choreographed, George said. Cardinals are seated in order of their elevation. Prayers are recited in Latin, instructions are printed in Italian and the participants speak a variety of languages. In April 2005, George sat between the Viennese cardinal with whom he spoke German and the cardinal from Mexico City, with whom he spoke Spanish.
"Until you take the first ballot, you really don't know who has strength and who does not," George said. "It's a very serious moment. You stand there with a ballot in your hand facing Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgment and you say … a pretty serious oath. You put your life and salvation on the line. That first ballot tells you what people really think."
George said the challenge facing cardinals next month will be finding a leader who can maintain a degree of continuity while moving the church in a bold new direction.
"I have some sense of where we must both keep our attention focused and also where we have to put some attention where perhaps we haven't been able to do that yet," he said. "But I'd like to clarify that more in my own mind before I say."
The rest of the Tribune story is HERE.