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Student 'cardinals' chose a pope of their own.

FREDERICK, Md. -- Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler, who was represented by kindergartner Sophia Lopez, was elected pope during a mock papal conclave held April 18 by students of the region at St. John Church in Frederick.

One hundred fifteen students from St. John Regional Catholic School, St. John's Literary Institution at Prospect Hall and local homeschooled students gathered in the church to choose the person they thought should be pope.

Dressed in red and sporting red caps, the 115 boys and girls processed into St. John Church while their classmates looked on. Each had a sign hanging around his or her neck identifying the cardinal they were representing, his country, age and a few biographical facts.

The student "cardinals" followed the same rituals as the real conclave: filling out their ballots in secret before folding them twice, processing one by one to the altar with their folded ballots held above their heads, and then kneeling and praying, "I call as my witness Christ the lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected."

"We saw this as such a tremendous teachable moment," said Karen Smith, interim principal of St. John Regional Catholic School. "We wanted to simulate what is happening in Rome."

During the student conclave, the votes were split among a wide range of cardinals in the first ballot, with Keeler and cardinals Claudio Hummes of Brazil, Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, Francis Arinze of Nigeria and Ivan Dias of India garnering the most support.

During a second ballot that was narrowed to Keeler and Hummes, Baltimore's archbishop squeaked out a victory by two votes.

Laura Shuman, 17, who portrayed Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, cast her vote for Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick. "I voted for the one who confirmed me," she said.

Stephanie Marks, a junior, said she learned a lot about how a pope is elected. "It's pretty cool that they burn the ballots and get black smoke when they haven't reached a decision," she said.

Sophia Lopez, Keeler's stand-in, was speechless that her fellow cardinals gave her such strong support. "It was fun," she admitted.

--Catholic News Service
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Title Annotation:IN THE BEGINNING
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 6, 2005
Previous Article:Priests older, better educated.
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