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Vatican City Gears Up As Cardinals Hold Final Talks On Eve Of Papal Conclave

Though A Long Shot, Buzz Continues About Cardinal Dolan Both Here, Abroad
Cardinal Timothy Dolan (C) chats with colleagues on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013 at the Vatican. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan (C) chats with colleagues on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013 at the Vatican. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork) – The stage is set for the most important act in the Roman Catholic Church — the election of a pope, beginning Tuesday afternoon.

As CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported, the Sistine Chapel was fully prepared Friday night. Not only was it swept for bugs and listening devices, but on Monday, workers set up jamming devices to deter eavesdroppers.

There was a heavy police presence all around Vatican City on Monday, and the district was crawling with security during the overnight hours. Security for the papal conclave was clearly the number one priority.

PHOTOS: Cardinals Attend Final General Congregation

Earlier, there were oohs and ahs as the faithful took their first look at the red drapes now framing the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, where, once he is elected, the pope will dramatically appear, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan waved and smiled as he arrived at what turned out to be the 10th and final pre-papal conclave meeting. There is a long list of potential popes, and Cardinal Dolan is said to be on it.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dolan and 114 other princes of the Church will enter the Sistine Chapel, which has been transformed into a papal polling place — including housing the stove where ballots will be burned after the voting.

The first vote is expected Tuesday afternoon. Front runners include Italy’s Cardinal Angelo Scola, and Canada’s Cardinal Marc Oulette, CBS 2’s Dubois reported.

But before the voting, the cardinals will celebrate morning Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by lunch. Then, as CBS 2’s Aiello reported, the ancient process to elect the new pope will begin.

On the eve of the conclave, Vatican adviser Greg Burke put it in baseball terms.

“It feels like … it feels like opening day! But in a big way,” Burke said.

Indeed, more than 1 billion Catholics are waiting to learn who will succeed Benedict XVI, who is now known as Pope Emeritus.

On Monday, as Cardinal Dolan arrived at the final pre-conclave meeting, Rome was waking up to Dolan’s smiling face on the front page of the popular newspaper, La Repubblica. The headline said the field of papal contenders is basically wide open, with the head of the New York Archdiocese gaining support.

“It’s a wide open field,” Burke said. “It is for all Catholics, a time of joy; a time of hope.”

Some Vatican observers predict Dolan may win 10 or 20 votes in the first round. It takes 77 votes to win election.

“It’s an exciting time for every single Catholic around the world, and the Americans, for those of us who are Americans, just throw another thing into the mix. This is the first time they’ve ever taken seriously any American name,” Burke said.

When asked about winning the papacy, Dolan has laughed and changed the subject.

During Monday’s daily report on Sirius-XM’s “The Catholic Channel” Dolan disclosed that during Monday’s final general meeting the cardinals openly discussed what they want to see in the next pope.

“We began to get into the qualities we’d like to see in our new Holy Father. It was remarkably enriching and uplifting, but I’m kind of happy they’re over because we came here to elect a pope, and we’ll start it tomorrow with the mass, then into the conclave and look for the white smoke,” Dolan said.

Already in place on Monday was the CBS News “smoke cam,” which is set to capture the signal that will tell the world if the voting has produced a pope.

Excitement Grows In New York

The fact that Cardinal Dolan is being mentioned as a possible pope has many Catholics in New York excited.

“I don’t think any part of the world would mind having him as a pope,” Middle Village resident Joe Peluso told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.

Outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Monday, the faithful were pulling for Dolan to make history.

“Oh I think it would be wonderful,” Chris Boland said.

Many in our area believe Dolan is just what the Church needs — a charismatic, youthful leader filled with enthusiasm for the Church’s future, and compassion for its people.

“I think that the whole Church would thrive if a man like Cardinal Dolan becomes pope,” one person said.

“I think he has a real human touch, very relatable. I think he would make a great pope,” said Lisa Barlerin of the East Side.

And it turns out you don’t even have to be a Catholic to be on the Dolan bandwagon.

“I’m Jewish by religion, but not practicing Jewish, but I think just in general it would be a great thing not just for the state but also for the country,” said Mahopac resident Jeff Blauer.

On Sunday, Dolan was mobbed like a rock star when he arrived to celebrate mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Monte Marino. But if he was thinking about the possibility of the top job, he certainly wasn’t saying.

“I’m anxious to get going. Tuesday will be great,” Dolan said.

Another American, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, has also been mentioned. Insiders say while it’s significant that Americans are even being considered possibilities, the two are long shots, though some believe it would be about time.

“We’ve had a Polish pope and a German pope. It’s time for the American pope,” one woman said.

“Wow, that would be incredible to have an American pope,” said Michael Heath of Harlem.

And some say you can root, root, root for the home guy all you want, but when it comes to picking a pope, there is something far more powerful at work.

“The most important thing all of us can do right now, is simply pray for God’s blessing, and the gift of the spirit on all the Cardinals as we go into the conclave,” said Cardinal Donald Weurl of Washington D.C.

“I just believe that prayer will result in the right person being chosen,” one New Yorker added. “I think it’s all in God’s hands, really.”

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