RI seminary student in Rome comments on conclave

The countdown to picking a new pope begins, and speculation about Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley being a front-runner is building.

Cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday for the papal conclave.

Nathan Ricci is a Rhode Island native who is studying in Rome as a seminary student.

"Yes, there does seem to be some buzz, at least in the Italian press, that Cardinal O'Malley is a front-runner, so to speak, but the truth is no one knows. I mean, not even the cardinals will say who is a front-runner, so to speak," Ricci said.

O'Malley has been described by some as a reformer and despite the buzz, however, joked with parishioners that he planned to return to Boston.

"Coming from New England, I was able to serve the Mass with Cardinal Sean O'Malley at his titular church. Just to see how many crowds came out to support him who came to the Mass and offered him their prayers and support, and to see that first hand, just to see a local man is a great blessing for the church, a great blessing for all of us, really," Ricci said.

To be elected, the next pope needs a two-thirds majority plus one for the final count.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 24 percent of the world's Catholics live in Europe, but more than 50 percent of those who will elect the next pope are European.

Will this be the first conclave to elect a pope not from Europe?

"I think anything is possible at this point. I think the cardinals are looking less and less at nationality and more and more at the man. Who is the best man to shepherd the church into the third millennium? Who is the best man to preserve the patrimony, the faith and to bring joy to the people of God? An American pope is certainly possible. An African pope is possible. An Italian, any sort of man is possible within the College of Cardinals," Ricci said.