Pope Benedict the Sixteenth shocked Catholics today by announcing his resignation effective at the end of the month. Some high ranking cardinals with ties to Wisconsin will be involved in choosing the next pope.
Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign since Gregory XII did so in 1415.
The Church has a system in place to select popes: It's a conclave comprised of no more than 120 cardinals. Three of those cardinals have ties to Wisconsin, according to Thomas Bolin, a professor of religious studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere.
Bolin says Raymond Burke was once the bishop of La Crosse, and James Harvey is a native of Milwaukee. Both now live and work in Rome: "There'll be two Wisconsin natives going into the conclave. I'm pretty sure that's never happened before."
Another prominent former Wisconsinite is Timothy Dolan, the former archbishop of Milwaukee. Dolan is now archbishop of New York and the current president of the US conference of bishops.
There is speculation that Dolan could be considered as the next pope. But Bolin says oddsmakers put him far down the list of potentials. He says the ultimate decision rests with members of the conclave. "Who are 'pope-able?' Who are those folks? Certainly cardinal Dolan has, he's the face of the American Church here. He's very, very well respected in Rome. It will be interesting to see how that plays out when the cardinals go into conclave early next month."
Bolin says there's a good chance the next pope will hail from the southern hemisphere, either Africa or South America. Church membership is strong in those areas.