LI Catholics share hopes for next pope

Cardinal Timothy Dolan waves to reporters as he Cardinal Timothy Dolan waves to reporters as he arrives for a meeting at the Vatican. The last cardinal who will participate in the conclave to elect the next pope arrived in Rome on Thursday, meaning a date can now be set for the election. One U.S. cardinal said a decision on the start date is expected soon. (March 8, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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When the cardinals who will elect the next pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church begin their voting Tuesday it will be in conclave, closed to the outside world.

But for Long Island Catholics at St. John of God in Central Islip and St. Mary of the Isle in Long Beach Sunday, the conversation was very much in the open, conducted on the church steps after Mass.

Samuel Oppong, 53, a psychiatric care worker from Central Islip, said he hoped for a pope who will overturn the prohibition against marriage for priests, a move he said could "solve certain parts of our problem" by attracting new leaders and cutting down on cases of sexual abuse.

Tim Mullally, 30, of Lido Beach, who works in the insurance business, said he wanted "a more conservative pope," one unafraid to be "strict with scandals" and clean up. Someone from Latin America or another area of the world where the faith is burgeoning might be nice, he said, as would a younger man, to bring "youth into the church again."

More than a few churchgoers on Sunday mentioned the need for a leader to "get things right" with the abused, as Maryanne Tonanico, 59, an office manager from Long Beach, put it.

She and some others hoped for a liberal reformer to admit women to the priesthood or change rules prohibiting certain forms of birth control.

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Jim Byrne, 72, a lector at St. John of God, wanted to see an enlightened administrator "that can lead the Church spiritually, financially, keep it going forward," he said, though he added he "wouldn't mind seeing an American cardinal picked."

For the Rev. Paschal Onwugbenu, it was enough to know that the centuries-old process of election was once more working; much of the anticipation and prognostication surrounding tomorrow's balloting smacked "more of politics than of spirituality," he said.

Furthermore, he said, he had no inside line on the identity of the church's next head. "Everybody in the world, unless they're in the conclave, will learn when the white smoke comes up," referring to the method by which the election of a pope is traditionally signaled.

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