When Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on February 11, he created a vacancy in the Roman Catholic Church that can only be filled by a conclave. He also made my March that much more exciting. You see, I was raised Catholic, and although I am no longer a Catholic, I am still pumped about the conclave. And that’s because conclaves are fantastic.
Sure, watching a chimney in Italy should be really dull, as it consists mostly of waiting and the viewer has no influence on the outcome. Eventually, smoke rises that announces the decision. But it’s actually fun to try to speculate on if the smoke will be black, signifying that there is no new Pope, or white, announcing that a new Pope has been chosen. Then there are the bets on who will be chosen—my friends and I are wagering cookies on the outcome—and the wild speculation about the likely direction the Catholic Church will go in.
And that’s another reason I still care about the conclave: even though the I am no longer directly affected if the new Pope decides that the ritual of Mass should focus more on original roots or interprets a certain section of scripture in a new way, the new Pope will still have an effect in the international sphere.
If, for example, Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan, is chosen as some are predicting, there may be a new understanding between Catholicism and Islam, as Scola is a scholar on Islam and involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue. If the Cardinals go in another way and choose Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, the Catholic Church may continue its recent trend of more conservative decisions, as Dolan is known for his traditional conservative positions. So, even though the new Pope may not have an enormous impact on my daily life, he will still determine the direction in which the Catholic Church will go, which can have an impact when it interacts with other religions and countries. So I am excited to see the outcome of the conclave—plus, I have high hopes of winning those cookies.