ROME (CBS4) – Filling the seat of St. Peter in the Roman Catholic Church.

As of late Monday afternoon, the task was shrouded in secrecy as each of the 115 cardinals looked to their conscience as to who they will vote for to be the next Pope.

Hours before the official conclave inside Rome’s famed Sistine Chapel gets underway, the slate of likely candidates to be the next Holy Father appears to be wide open given the weight of the problems facing the church and the various solutions needed to address them.

“We need to deal with forthright, such as child abuse, such as scandal in the church, such as corruption in the church, careerism in the church, that’s what really faces our next pope,” Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, director of the North American College, told CBS4’s Michele Gillen who is in Rome for the papal conclave.

Figueiredo said the perception of how church leaders in America handled the sex abuse scandal and their willingness now to endorse zero tolerance policies puts their cardinals in an unexpected position – they’re being seriously considered to lead the church worldwide.

“I look at the American cardinals and I see men who are upright, courageous and who have had great challenges but have met them head on,” said Figueiredo.

Many Americans many find such positive reviews surprising, but they shouldn’t.

“You have to compare the church in the United States to the church around the world and believe there are countries around the world that haven’t even begun the process that started 10 years ago in the U.S.,” said Delia Gallager, editor for Inside the Vatican. ‘I think the fact that they are even talking about American is a good sign.”

On Monday, the cardinals held their final congregation before the conclave; the delicate issue of financial management of the Vatican bank was raised during discussions.

On Tuesday, the day will begin with an elaborate mass at St. Peter’s basilica. The cardinals will then adjourn to the Sistine Chapel where the first vote will be cast in the afternoon.

“The next Holy Father himself will need to be a witness and a courageous advocate of being authentic, people of integrity and witness in a world where their is so much suffering, so much difficulty,” said Figueiredo.


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