Louisville archbishop, students watch conclave carefully


by Joe Arnold


Posted on March 12, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 12 at 7:27 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- As the College of Cardinals begins the conclave to select a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of Louisville Roman Catholics expects a decision within the week.

"I think the important thing is that the time that is necessary to discern is taken," Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said.

"In any family, we yearn for unity," Kurtz told WHAS11, "unity in charity, of course, but also unity in truth.  And that's where our Holy Father in Rome will give us that great, great gift."

Vatican watchers have debated whether the cardinals' decision will be based more on the call for a skilled manager to guide the Church out of an era of scandals and questionable business practices or on the desire for a evangelical pontiff to energize the Church and insist upon relevance in the 21st century.

"I think we want someone who resembles Christ as much as possible and in that sense has an anchor in the person of Christ," Kurtz said, adding that Pope Benedict has led a new evangelization which has seen a surge in seminarians and young Catholics seeking deeper truths.

"Whoever is chosen will have gifts and will also have.... the lack of full gifts and is going to need others to help him," Kurtz said.

Appointed to the Louisville Archdiocese by Pope Benedict in 2007, Kurtz said the now retired pontiff set a good example for the next pope to seek assistance in areas that are not a strong suit.

Pope Benedict also appointed two Louisville priests as bishops in other dioceses, a reminder that Kurtz's future may be altered by whom the cardinals choose.

"I'm planning to stay for the rest of my life," Kurtz said. "We never know what God may be calling us to do.  But I would say it's best for us to bloom where we are planted, and that's what I intend to do."

As vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Kurtz is a likely candidate to become the next president of the group.

The word "catholic" means universal - from Kurtz to Holy Trinity Parish School students in Louisville who watched a satellite feed from the Sistine Chapel.

"We've been praying for it," said George Solomon, one of the students in Michelle Hartlage's class.

Each fourth grade class has "adopted" one of the 115 voting cardinals at the Vatican.

"We prayed for guidance for him to make the right decision for Pope," Solomon said.

"What kind of characteristics do you think they're looking for in our new Pope?" Hartlage asked the class.

Every student raised a hand to answer, with answers that echoed the archbishop.

"To be holy and to be a good leader for the Church," Kiersten Oyler said.

"They need to be prayerful and like really respectful," Haley Cardwell said.

"I would think about all the Cardinals and how Christian-like they are and they are like Jesus," Sarah Sheffer said.

"They're obviously looking for a good leader who's not afraid to speak in front of a lot of people," suggested Emiko Ohta.  "And preach really well."

"They're trying to find a Pope who knows what to do," Mollie Leist said, "and what the job is to be the Pope and knows how to respect God and those people."

One student offered that Pope Benedict's shocking resignation, the first by a pope in nearly 600 years, would also influence the cardinals.

"Young," John Vanetti said. "because Pope Benedict would get like really old and that's why he quit."

"I hope the Holy Spirit guides whoever our next Pope is," Douglas Painter said, "and has a really strong faith."