Cardinal Theodore McCarrick shed some light on the highly secretive process by which Catholic leaders choose a new pope Monday. Though an exact date has not yet been announced, a conclave is due to convene in early March, after Pope Benedict XVI abdicates this Thursday.
In an interview on Andrea Mitchell Reports, McCarrick described a decree from the late Pope John Paul II about three years before he died, which McCarrick said each cardinal follows in the conclave.
"The critical moment is when each cardinal has his ballot in his hand. And before he puts it in the urn, he has to repeat an oath. And you're standing in front of Michelangelo's Last Judgment, so that all adds, always, to the solemnity. And you have this in your hand. You say something like this, right - I can't translate it exactly from Latin. 'I call upon the Lord Jesus, my Savior, as my witness. He who will judge me' - and you're looking at the Last Judgment - 'he who will judge me, that the man I am voting for is the one who, under God, I believe God wants to be Pope.' And in a certain sense, it makes it not anymore an election, it makes it a discernment. You're trying to figure out what you think God would want, what man you think God would want for all the needs of the church today. So it's a fascinating moment. You do it every time you vote so that it's something you have you never can forget."
McCarrick described the conclave as a very holy, very special experience. "You go in, you pray, you come out. Some talk. Some go back to prayer. Some will say their rosary walking along. Each one has his own way of communing with this very special moment in their lives."
"It's very beautiful to watch, because you're watching the church at prayer—old men, young men, white, black, every color of the rainbow, because the church produces its universality when it all comes together in the College. So it is a moment of prayer. And thank God it is, because we need God's help to get the right person," McCarrick told Mitchell.