Bishop Robert Lynch, head of the Catholic Diocese in St. Petersburg said choosing a new pope is always history in the making.
But this year we are witnessing something special, with two Americans, Cardinal Sean O'Malley from Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York, being discussed as possible leaders for the Catholic church.
"It certainly would not have happened eight years ago. So, yes. We have come a long way," said Bishop Lynch.
But Bishop Lynch isn't optimistic one of those cardinals will be elected. "They have a shot, but it's a long shot," said the Bishop.
Sister Ann Regan is not hopeful either. A nun of 50 years and a teacher at the Tampa Bay area's oldest school, Academy of the Holy Names on Bayshore Boulevard, Regan does not feel the world is ready.
"I see it as a wonderful dream, but not reality," she said. "I think the U.S. is very much part of the world, but it is not the whole world."
Bishop Lynch also points to America's image.
"The U.S. is still so economically and militarily strong, that it would be threatening to many people to have an American as the head of a church," said Lynch.
But the Bishop said the mere fact two Americans are being mentioned to head the Catholic Church shows great promise for the future. He gives direct mention to the two American cardinals.
"I think Cardinal O'Malley is a Franciscan. He does not revel in luxury. He lives simply and humbly and he's a linguist. He speaks many languages perfectly," said Lynch.
Of Dolan, Lynch said, "He has such a charismatic personality and he comes from the media capital of the world, New York."
Lynch said that the church needs someone with Dolan's media savvy.
"Television wasn't all that strong, and television is now here, and we have the social media on top of that. We have to use those things to spread the gospel, and I hope our new leader will do that," said Lynch.
Dr. Randall Woodard, a theology professor at St. Leo University, agreed. "I do think the church needs someone who is able to respond using technology. He needs to have the kind of face people like looking at and listening to. He should also have the willingness to travel to be present to people on real human ways."
Dr. Woodard said the new pope also needs to face, head-on, the controversy surrounding the Catholic Church, including sex abuse and questions surrounding Vatican banking.
"I think beyond that, it is someone who is an effective administrator. Someone who can walk into a place where there may be corruption and realize it needs to be cleaned up and someone who has the courage to do so," said Dr. Woodard.
The Bishop agreed. "I think the number-one complaint against the church is there is still a lack of transparency, admitting when we are dealing with sin and sometimes crime," said Lynch.
Sister Regan said it's time, more than ever, to do what Catholics do and that is pray. "I know we are praying here at the Academy. This is a decision that affects all of us," she said.
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