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Cardinals uncertain on how to replace a living pope

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Albany/HV: Cardinals uncertain on how to replace a living pope
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With the announcement of Pope Benedict's resignation, the focus is now shifting to who will follow him. As our Bobby Cuza explains, there are some unanswered questions as to how that process will unfold.

NEW YORK STATE -- When it comes to selecting a new pope, the Catholic Church has many centuries of experience to fall back on.

“This has gone on for 2,000 years. So this will not be a new experience, the transition. The fact that it’s occasioned by the retirement of the Pope is new,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said.

Indeed, most popes, including John Paul II, have served until death. Then come nine days of mourning. The conclave, the gathering behind closed doors of the cardinals who elect a new Pope by two-thirds vote, usually begins 15 days after the pope’s death. This time around, the timing is still unclear.

“This is going to move quickly. It can move very quickly because there’s not going to be the normal period of mourning on the death of the pope,” Terrence Tilley said.

“It’ll probably be the end of March. And, you know, now’s the idea when everybody’s going to be discussing who the new pope ought to be,” Brian O’Dwyer said.

There’s been speculation it may finally be time for a Pope from Africa or Latin America, like Cardinals Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, Francis Arinze of Nigeria or Peter Turkson of Ghana. Other frequently mentioned candidates include Marc Ouellet of Canada and Angelo Scola of Milan, Italy.

O’Dwyer said, “I know it’s a long shot, because they don’t usually like Americans, because America’s so powerful, but if anybody’d make a great Pope, it’s our own Cardinal Dolan.”

“That would be highly improbable,” Dolan said.

Dolan will be among the 118 cardinals who are under age 80 and therefore eligible to vote. Pope Benedict won't have a vote. At age 85, he's too old in any case.

The U.S. has 11 electors, or about nine percent, second only to Italy, home to nearly a quarter of the electors. It's a process steeped in secrecy. Ballots are burned after each vote. Black smoke means no selection. White smoke means a new Pope has been chosen, a process likely to play out in just a few weeks.

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