HOUSTON -- The students gathering between classes at St. Thomas High School on Wednesday had a lot more on their minds than just making the grade.

I think the Pope should be from Latin America, said one student.

We re going to find out, another one said.

What many of them were thinking about was a new Pope and the future of the Catholic Church, which some young people fear has grown out of touch.

The discussion seemed timely given the fact that Pope Benedict is stepping down, paving the way for cardinals at the Vatican to select a new pontiff for the first time in eight years.

It would be good if they weren't from Europe, said Graham Quinn. Because most of the popes have been from Europe and they need to branch out.

I think that a new pope with a younger age would actually be helpful for the Church, said Mitchell Harris.

St. Thomas students are far removed from the selection process at the Vatican. But despite their strong opinions, many of them remained confident that whoever emerges will be the right person to lead the Church.

One of them said he was excited to see who they were going to pick, and hoped he could inspire a new generation of Catholics.

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