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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The conclave to select the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church is set to begin in just two days, and Catholics around the world are anxious to see who that person will be.
The College of Cardinals will gather Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City to begin the selection process, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last month due to failing health.
Catholics in Knoxville are watching this historic decision closely.
As the congregation of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville met for Sunday mass, heavy on their hearts was the person who will be the next pope.
"Someone who will stand for what the Catholic Church is all about. It's a really neat time in our church for us to come together and have the opportunity to pray for our future leader," said Shelly Letendre, a lifelong Catholic and member of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The choice of who will lead the world's one billion Catholics rests in the hands of the Cardinals.
Pope Benedict's resignation is the first in more than 600 years, landing Catholics on unfamiliar ground.
"It's certainly something that not for anyone alive today that we've ever faced as a church, as a group," said Chip Reed of Sacred Heart Cathedral. "The challenge the Cardinals have is an extremely difficult challenge to try to represent the best interests of the entire globe."
"It's very fascinating to see that there's going to be a new Pope after such a long time," said Clara Stuckey, attending Sunday mass at Sacred Heart with her parents.
As the monumental decision looms, they're praying for discernment for the Cardinals.
They aren't focused on the politics of the decision. They just want who is best for the future of the faith.
"God has appointed who He has wanted and I feel like He's going to do it again. God is going to put a leader in place who is going to lead our church in the right direction," said Letendre.
The process has local parishioners thinking about what they'd like to see in the next leader of the Catholic Church. They hope whoever is elected Pope will bring together everyone in the faith.
"A person of strong faith that ultimately has the right convictions and the faith and the teaching of the church because that drives every other action and choice," said Reed.
They also want someone who is charismatic and an excellent communicator.
"It's an exciting time just because we don't know who it's going to be," said Reed.
The College of Cardinals will begin voting on Tuesday night.
After that, they will take two votes in the morning and two in the evening until a new pope is chosen.
The winning candidate must receive two-thirds of the vote, which is at least 77 of the 115 voting Cardinals.
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