New Cardinals Add to Length of Conclave To Pick New Pope

12:34 PM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS News) By late Tuesday all but one of the 115 voting cardinals are expected to be in Vatican City, but there are already signs that the process of electing a new pope may take longer than it has in the recent past.

The cardinals have taken an oath of secrecy, but CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that sex abuse, claims of corruption, and the future of the Church are high on the agenda. Job number one, however, is electing a new leader.

Some cardinals arriving in Vatican City needed bodyguards to force their way through the waiting press just to get to the "congregations" -- meetings to discuss the problems of the Church, and where it needs to go next.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet says the search for a new pontiff has already widened.

"There was a focus on Europe obviously for centuries and centuries, and that someday, I think, someday it is to be expected that a pope would come from Asia, would come from Africa, would come from America," he said. "It wouldn't be a surprise. Nowadays it wouldn't be a surprise."

The Sistine Chapel was formally closed to tourists Tuesday to prepare it for the secret vote. Special urns for the electoral cardinals' ballots were put on display.

The cardinals may have to huddle there for longer than the 1.8 days they averaged over the last six conclaves.

"I think we are just feeling our way right now in trying to determine what is the best way for us to proceed," said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., noting that, "there are many of us in this conclave who were not in the last one, so this is all uncharted water for many of us."

A recurring theme is the sex abuse scandals. Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien has already recused himself from the conclave over charges of sexual misconduct, and the pressure group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) wants more cardinals to do the same.

"It's hard, I would think, for Catholics and it certainly is hard for victims to have faith in this process knowing that many of the men involved are morally compromised," said SNAP director David Clohessy.

It's unlikely that he and his organization will get succeed in getting any more cardinals to skip the conclave, but several have said the problem must feature high on the agenda of choosing a new pope.

The cardinals all seem to agree the new pope will have to be both a good manager and an effective pastor. As religion writer and analyst Thomas Reese put it, they're looking for "Jesus with an MBA."

A new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that as the cardinals meet, American Catholics are optimistic about Pope Benedict's successor. Among those polled, 74 percent of Catholics expressed at least some confidence that the College of Cardinals will select a pontiff who will be in touch with the needs of Catholics today, including 29 percent who have a great deal of confidence. That's a drop from 2005, however, just before Benedict was elected.

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