UPDATE: The Catholic Church has a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina - Pope Francis I

By: J. Werner
| Published 03/12/2013


UPDATE: March 13, 2013

White smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel chimney.

The Catholic Church has chosen a new pope. White smoke is billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, indicating that the 115 cardinals in a papal conclave have elected a new leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

The new pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is now Pope Francis I.


CONROE, Texas -- Conroe Catholics were fixated on Twitter as the papal conclave began the voting process on Tuesday. The centuries-old process, revised in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI, should elect a pope in two to three days. No papal conclave of the past 100 years has lasted more than five days. The conclave was instituted as the result of one of the longest papal vacancies in history…two years and nine months.

The College of Cardinals consists of 115 Roman Catholic cardinals who will vote for a new pope to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. The voting will continue until a candidate receives a two-thirds majority vote. Until a two-thirds majority is reached, the voting process will signal with each unsuccessful vote, with black smoke. At that time, the selection of a new pope will be announced to the public with white smoke from the Sistine Chapel and the ringing of the bells of St. Peter's Basilica.

Although several are rumored to be among the most likely to don the papal robes, the electors are divided into two groups, those who wish to reform the Vatican's bureaucracy who are backing Italian Cardinal, Angelo Scola, and cardinals who work at the Vatican who back Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer.

The European countries account for 285,916,457 Catholics, and it’s been a long time since an Italian has led the church that has its world headquarters smack dab in the middle of Italy. Two reasons why Scola is leading the league.

With one of the largest concentrations of Catholics in Brazil, with 123,280,172, and all of South America amounting to 299,570,011, makes Cardinal Schere is a serious consideration. The United States falls short with 74,115,001, but the cumulative Catholics in all of North America equals 173,212,640. This is possibly why New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, were added to the short list. Combine all the Americas and who get 524,162,233 Catholics; the scale then tips significantly to the west.

Africa has 135,211.325 Catholics, so they’re well-represented by Peter Turkson, the former archbishop of Ghana, and John Onaiyekan, the archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria. But Africa falls way short of the European and American numbers. On an added note, Asian Catholics account for 120,860,669 of the church’s members; a substantial percentage. The archbishop of Manila, Luis Tagle, is only 55 years old and became a cardinal just four months ago. So Asia’s only serious contender will probably have to wait for a later papacy vacancy.

Monsignor Frederick O’Connor of Houston, a previous pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, expressed his thoughts on who might be the next pope.

“Whomever God guides the cardinals to elect,” said Monsignor O’Connor.

It would be the luck of the Irish if elected in time for the papal coronation to take place on St. Patrick’s Day. It is the intention of the Vatican to have a new pope in plenty of time to prepare for the Easter season. Based on the numbers, it does appear that the 266th pontiff could very well be Cardinal Scola or Scherer, but in the meantime, the situation at best, is popeless.