Is Papal Conclave a cause for change?

By Matt Porter

March 11, 2013 Updated Mar 11, 2013 at 6:34 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Former Catholic Betty Fish said she's never been comfortable with the institution of the Church.

"Look at the Vatican, I mean its huge. They're rich, they own a lot of land, they're powerful," Fish said, "They have a big say even in politics."

Fish said faith comes from God, not from any one man.

"Man made laws, man made rules," she said, "I didn't feel it was biblical."

As cardinals in Rome hold a conclave to select a new pope, he will have have to deal with shrinking congregations in the West.

The conclave is a meeting held in total secrecy, something done intentionally according to Reverend John Donovan of Saint James Roman Catholic Church in Johnson City.

"It allows the cardinals to converse openly as to what the strengths and weaknesses are of the different people who are proposed," Donovan said.

He added it's very unlikely the next pontiff would come from the United States.

"Americans are perceived as being out for themselves," Donovan said, "And so the rest of the conclave would approach it from that perspective."

115 cardinals will begin the conclave tomorrow in the Sistine Chapel after a morning mass in Saint Peter's Basilica.

Donovan said the biggest challenge awaiting the next pope is how to unite all of the world's Catholics together.

"It's very tough for the new pope to come in and really address the needs of the whole church," he said.

After sex abuse and financial scandals, the next leader of the church will have to be proactive.

"We need to be approachable," Donovan said, "We need to have answers to the questions that are asked."

With fewer priests joining the church, radical changes including allowing clergy to marry aren't unthinkable, according to Donovan, but aren't close either.

"Change in the church is always pretty slow," he said.

As more faithful ask for change, like Betty Fish, the new pope will be looked to for answers.

"He's certainly needs to start telling people you've got to start thinking about these changes," Fish said, "And you've got to start thinking about putting them through."

Once the conclave begins, the only information on its progress will come from a chimney installed in the Sistine Chapel.

Black smoke billowing from the chimney will signal a failed vote, while white smoke will mean a new pope has been chosen.

Two-thirds of the cardinals must agree on a candidate.

Past conclaves have gone on for weeks or months, but with Easter approaching, experts expect a quicker decision.

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