MIAMI (CBSMiami) – U.S. Cardinal Sean O’Malley is one of the top contenders in the run-up to the papal election.
He once served here in South Florida and his cousin still works at Belen Jesuit Prep School in West Miami-Dade.
Students there watched the start of the conclave with great interest took part in a special Mass in the school gym Tuesday morning and marked the first day of the conclave with prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and for the upcoming election of his successor.
“We are excited about this moment in history,” said student Kengi Martinez. “Super excited because we are so close to possibly our next leader.”
Students like Martinez could barely contain their excitement at the possibility that Cardinal O’Malley is a contender to become the next Pope because his cousin is the school’s 7th grade theology teacher.
“It’s a big deal for our school,” said Martinez.
“It’s kind of like rooting for a team and you know we hope the cardinals make the right decision but we have a little interest in Cardinal O’Malley,” said Student Oscar Cabanas. “He’s kind of our hometown guy. He is not really from here, but we are kind of rooting for him anyway.”
“We have always sensed something very extraordinary in my cousin,” said Deacon O’Malley.
His cousin is Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, who also previously led the dioceses of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Palm Beach.
“Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming and it’s hard to express in words the emotional reaction we have to this,” said the Deacon.
Whether his cousin becomes the next pope or not, the deacon says it’s just an honor his cousin was even considered.
Additionally he says the conclave will be a great learning opportunity for his theology students.
“Our theology classes have been teaching us a lot about the responsibilities of the cardinals and what this meeting is all about, how they meet at a chapel and have no phones to communicate with the outside world so it’s a big deal for us,” explained Martinez.
“Just thinking of the momentous occasion they are witnessing as students here, we will be able to communicate to them the importance of prayer and of getting close to God when there is something important happening in their lives,” said Belen Jesuit Prep School President Pedro Suarez.
A member of the Capuchin order, Cardinal O’Malley lives a simple life with few possessions. He hinted recently he doesn’t anticipate exchanging his brown habit for the papal vestments.
“I have worn this uniform for 40 years,” Cardinal O’Malley said at a news conference a week before the conclave was set to begin. “I will wear it until I die because I don’t expect to be pope.”
For mass last Sunday, the cardinal wore the traditional red of cardinals as he entered a church in Rome where he delivered mass in Italian. He also speaks Spanish, Creole and Portuguese fluently.
He’s joked he bought a roundtrip ticket and plans to return to Boston, but his vast knowledge of languages should come in handy should he find himself living in Vatican City.
Evening mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Coconut Grove Tuesday was filled with the typical song and scripture, as well as mentions of the history being made in Vatican City.
The priest called on the Holy Spirit to guide the cardinals as they return for more voting Wednesday.
“Of course I pray for them” Gabriela Garza said. “We hope that the next pope is the one God wants us to have.”
Churchgoer David Garcia said the next pope should be charismatic and relatable.
“(I’m) hoping that it’s going to be someone that can actually lead us through the new era with all the problems the church is going through,” Garcia said. “Not just the church, but humanity as a whole.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski led a special service at Saint Martha’s Church in Miami Shores to mark the start of the conclave.
He owes his current position within the Archdiocese of Miami to Pope Benedict the XVI, but said he’s eager to see who the papal successor will be.
“I look forward to collaborating with the new Bishop of Rome, always working in communion with him and with the other Bishops throughout the world, to advance the cause of the Gospel,” Archbishop Wenski said.