SAN ANTONIO - Nearly half of the world s Catholics live in Latin America. Some speculate the church will embrace this growing population and give the world its first Hispanic pope.
There s a sense this is the time a pope will come from this whole growing area of the church, said local Catholic leader Father David Garcia.
When the cardinals meet to elect the next pope, many will be praying he comes from Latin America.
I think I m excited that our next pope might be from outside of Europe, said local parishioner Brian Przybla.
For the first time in centuries, cardinals will have time to discuss candidates ahead of time and perhaps listen to others.
I think they will take into consideration someone younger and maybe Hispanic would be great, said local parishioner Theresa Cuellar.
In the past, the cardinals would not gather until the pope had passed away, leaving immediately for the funeral and to elect a new pontiff.
But now we have a few weeks before the cardinals go to Rome so the cardinals may get a lot of advice this time, Garcia said.
Already there is speculation about the Hispanic who could be pope. Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of Brazil, the largest Catholic country in Latin America, is seen as the front-runner.
Also mentioned is Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Before the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Rodriguez said, It would be a great hope for many of the young Catholics to have a pope who could come from Latin America.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City is another Hispanic papal contender along with Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez from Columbia.
A third of American Catholics are Hispanic. That number is expected to grow, especially in Texas.