Catholics in Indiana, worldwide watch as Rome chooses new Pope

Tony Hollowell gave the first reading at the conclave mass.
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All eyes remain on Rome as the Vatican begins the process of choosing a new Pope, and Catholics in Indianapolis are praying for a new leader.

One hundred and fifteen cardinals headed into the Sistine Chapel for their first vote Tuesday as the conclave began in Vatican City, Italy.

Black smoke emerged from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel shortly before 3:00 pm EDT, indicating that the cardinals did not elect a new Pope on their first try.

The cardinals held the first day of the conclave Tuesday deeply divided over the problems of the church and who best among them could fix them following the stunning resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican made clear it didn't expect a winner on the first ballot.

The cardinals now return to the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel for the night. They return to the Apostolic Palace for Mass Wednesday morning and a new round of voting.

Indiana church members share hopes for new leader

Thousands of miles away in Indiana, many worshipers who arrived for Tuesday's noon Mass at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral downtown had a lot on their wish list for the next Pope: expand the church's base, unite the congregation, expand prayer within the Catholic church, among other hopes. It's a time of anticipation for the faithful.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin preached the homily as Catholics join him in prayer for the Cardinals choosing the new leader for the church of more a billion people, including 245,000 here in Central Indiana.

"It is the most important thing in the Catholic Church at this point in time. You know, to be the leader of the Catholic Church throughout the world. It's a wonderful event and something all Catholics are interested in," said Sister Pat Dede.

The one-hour Mass was an opportunity to pray for the right decision and to contemplate the kind of qualities the church needs in its next leader.

"It's very important for our church and it's very important that we elect somebody who has lots of languages and lots of spirituality and I'm really excited and looking forward to having a new Pope," said Francis Vogeler.

Her husband Charles Vogeler said the feeling among Catholics is a combination of excitement and nail-biting.

"We don't know who is going to be considered or why. We won't every know that, I guess, until the white smoke comes out," he said.

"The thing that I see is if more people would come back to the church, would have more faith in the church so that there can be a growth in the church in America and in Europe. So many people seem to have left the church, and that's a real cross for us to know that we're losing people, that they don't have any faith in the church," said one parishioner.

It's believed this is the first time someone from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has taken part in the special Mass opening the conclave. Tony Hollowell gave the opening reading at the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica this morning. He's studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. His local parish, the Nativity Parish, is located on the south side.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan said in his daily radio broadcast Tuesday that the rainy weather in Rome may be a sign.

"Maybe this gentle Roman rain is a sign of the grace of the Holy Spirit coming upon us," he said. "You just see the gentle movement of the breeze of the Holy Spirit. And the closer you get, the more you get settled in your mind."

There is plenty of speculation that the next Pope could be American.

"Americans can get things done. The American cardinals, Sean O'Malley comes very much to mind; he has been dealing with the sex abuse crisis for a long time so they have that know-how," said Father Robert Barron, NBC news analyst.

The church is seeking a reformer and a shepherd with the common touch. The electors will remain in total seclusion until there's an answer. They cannot check emails or use cell phones. In fact, the chapel itself is swept for electronic devices. During that time they will pray, meet and discuss. They will also cast their first ballot today.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said the new Pope will face challenges. "One of his biggest challenges is, it's fair to say, the administrative now," Coyne said. "I think for both John Paul II and Benedict that was not their strength, and I think there is work to be done on all different levels of the church."

The famous chimney is installed on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.  Catholics across the globe will be watching for the ceremonial white smoke to come from the chimney - the signal that a new Pope has been chosen.

See a live stream of NBC's coverage here.

- Top contenders to lead the Roman Catholic Church:
- The 115 men who will choose the next pope:
- Q. and A. on the papal transition: