As the papal conclave began Tuesday in Vatican City, Southern New England Catholics sent their prayers overseas.
"We have lost a lot of Catholics and I hope they come back," Madeleine Santala said after Mass at St. John's Parish in Attleboro.
"For the next pope, I look for a holy man, a strong man that can lead the church and also a gentleman," Santala said.
Debate over whether a good manager or a devout Christian will make a better leader has dominated talks at the Vatican. Catholics in our region said faith must come first.
"The Vatican has hurt itself with these scandals but I don't think you can get out of it by getting someone who is simply a good manager," said Dr. Jim Keating, a Providence College theology professor.
Local Catholics are hoping Boston's Archbishop Sean O'Malley will be chosen by his colleagues. Keating said that's unlikely.
"Americans already have so much power in the world, to think that we would add to that by having an American pope is seen as a problem to some," Keating said.
Keating is participating in a running joke amongst Catholics this month. A NCAA tournament-style bracket system called the "Sweet Sistine" betting on the next leader of the Catholic Church.
Needless to say, his money won't be on O'Malley.
The Rev. Riley Williams of St. John's in Attleboro said above all else he wants a true evangelist, but ideally that would be O'Malley.
"This is his hometown team. My opinion would be biased," Williams said.
St. John's Parish will hold another Mass in honor of the conclave at 7 p.m. Tuesday.