Americans in Rome plan to follow conclave, watch for white smoke

by Jessica Langdon
jessica@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Father Vince Huber, AVI, started the week of March 4 like the rest of the world, awaiting word on when the conclave would begin.

But he knew one thing for certain: He would soon be watching it from the city at the heart of the activity.

“It’s pretty special to be here,” said Father Vince, who is serving in Rome with the Apostles of the Interior Life.

Although he’s now just a couple of years into his priesthood with the religious community, Father Vince, a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and a former member of Church of the Nativity in Leawood, is already a veteran of the conclave process.

He was in Rome for the first time in 2005 when Pope John Paul II died, and a traditional mourning period followed before the conclave began.

“I was actually on public transportation when the white smoke went up,” he recalled.

He arrived at St. Peter’s Square in time to hear the announcement, “Habemus Papam” — “We have a pope” — and to see Pope Benedict XVI walk out onto the balcony and greet the people of the world as the church’s next pope.

So it was fitting that almost eight years later, on Feb. 27, he witnessed Pope Benedict’s final audience.

Father Vince now looks forward to the activity surrounding a new conclave and the much-anticipated announcement of the successor.

The growing media presence is already noticeable, said Luke Doyle, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas currently studying in Rome.

He and fellow seminarian Agustin Martinez are both spending their first year of theology studying at the Pontifical North American College there.

That has placed them in close proximity to the American cardinals as the latter arrived in Rome for work leading up to the conclave. All the American cardinals who don’t live in Rome were staying at the college until the conclave started.

“We were blessed to have nine cardinals  — ‘princes of the church’ — join us for Sunday Mass this morning,” Doyle said on March 3, the day before the cardinals were set to meet to determine, among other things, a date for the conclave to begin.

He had the chance to meet several of them — even in some unexpected places.

“I actually met Cardinal [Sean] O’Malley from Boston in the gym! Was I running on a treadmill next to the church’s next pope?!” asked Doyle.

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