On the eve of their conclave to select a new pope, cardinals held their final debate Monday over whether the Catholic Church needs a manager to clean up the Vatican or a pastor to inspire the faithful at a time of crisis.
The countdown underway, speculation has gone into overdrive about who’s ahead in the papal campaign.
Click here to follow Chris Nagus' coverage of the conclave in Rome
News 4 Reporter Chris Nagus is in Vatican City, where he talked to some priests from the St. Louis Archdiocese.
Father Don Anstoetter, who grew up at St. Joseph’s Parish in Manchester, is a seminary student in Rome.
Father Anstoetter says he felt honored to be witnessing such history.
“It’s beyond words, it’s incredible,” he said.
He studies just a cobblestone’s throw away from the Vatican.
“St. Peters Square is no Kiener Plaza,” Anstoetter said a bit tongue in cheek, “but it’s alright, it’s an incredible blessing to be here in such a beautiful city.”
While 3 million Italians call Rome home, this week it is the center of the world for more than a billion Catholics.
On Monday, crews installed enormous drapes, a last-minute preparation before the conclave begins.
“The central window, that’s where we will see the Pope for the first time,” said Father Don Henke, once assigned to Duchesne High School in St. Charles.
Father Henke is now the academic dean at a college in Rome, where he oversees 250 seminary students.
Those students will be watching a tiny chimney - waiting for white smoke - starting Tuesday.
“The classrooms will empty, they will get to St. Peters Square as fast as they can,” Henke said.
There are seven St. Louis-area priests total studying at the North American College.