Providence priest in Rome talks about conclave

A Rhode Island native and familiar face around the Providence Diocese is Father David Gaffney.

Father Gaffney has been in Rome since August teaching at The Pontifical North American College, a seminary just a 10 minute walk from St. Peter's Square.

Father Gaffney told NBC 10 that his daily routine has changed since the conclave began. Gaffney said he now takes a stroll to the square every day at noon, and at 7 p.m. to get the latest news on the "papal pick."

"The next few days are going to be exciting days!" he said over the phone from his room in Italy.

NBC 10 actually woke the father out of a sound sleep, at about 7 p.m. on Tuesday, as Italy is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

"First there was the initial shock, and absorbing the news that the Pope had stepped-down, but now the focus has turned fully to the process at hand. I do know that the time they spent in the general congregation talking and meeting and working together and getting to know each other has prepared the Cardinals. A lot of the work of that they need to do has already happened, and now they really can get down to voting, which is what the conclave itself is all about."

Father Gaffney said Rome is an exciting place to be, as the eyes of the world looked to the top of the Sistine Chapel for a sign.

"Finally at about 7:40 p.m., I heard someone kind of gasp, or cry out or shrieked a little bit when they saw the black smoke, and then we all kind of turned and looked at the TV, looked at the huge monitors there, and realized a Pope had not been chosen."

The Providence priest acknowledges that it's his colleague, former Fall River Bishop and current Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean O'Malley is making headlines.

"I try to keep up with some of the news from back home, and I realize in the last few days that Cardinal O'Malley is getting quite a bit of attention, and Cardinal O'Malley is certainly someone who people here in this house (the seminary in Rome) respect. Again, knowing that he was in the Fall River diocese, and now Boston, I've known him, and he as well as other names that have been out there would fill that role very well," Father Gaffney said.

Father Gaffney pontificates the concept of Pope's new title. "Well I suppose there is any number of possibilities of a name; certainly Pope John Paul picked the name of his predecessors. So the name that the next person might pick, I suppose there could be some continuity. They could pick Benedict the seventeenth, but really the field is very wide open. Sometimes it has a particular connection to them, or it might have a connection to a kind of mandate they believe they've received from the church."

And, just in case you were wondering, in recent history, the process of picking a new Pope hasn't taken very long.

In fact, whether it was Pope John XVIII in the early sixties, all the way to the selection of the last Pope Benedict XVI, it's only taken the conclave two days or fewer to gather and vote on a successor.

Father Gaffney said, "Whoever the new Holy Father is, we pledge our unity, you know? We are a church that comes together around the Holy Father seeing him as a visible sign of unity.

So you know after all the speculation is done, after the conclave is done, when that person comes out on the balcony, it is the moment that we are united behind that person."

The Providence priest says he doesn't want to make any 'papal predictions,' and instead hopes he and the Cardinals will stay grounded through this international process.

Father Gaffney says the 'Holy Spirit' is the only 'active agent' at play here, and he believes that, in the end, that's what will govern the ultimate Papal vote.