NORTH ANDOVER — As the papal conclave meets to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, local residents are praying and fasting so the Holy Spirit will help the cardinal electors in choosing a new leader for the Catholic Church.
Many of those praying and fasting hope that Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, might be the next pontiff.
Among them is Debbie Papalia of North Andover, who was assigned to pray for Lopez Rodriguez by the website Adopt a Cardinal. The site is a way for Catholics to pray for all the cardinals who are voting to decide who will become the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Papalia was assigned Lopez Rodriguez at random, but takes her promise to pray for him very seriously.
“All the cardinals need prayers, they need a spirit of truth. They can’t be compromised in any way because this job is well beyond what a human can do,” Papalia said.
Papalia first heard about the program on a radio show, then visited its website, adoptacardinal.org.
“I saw it as something powerful,” said Papalia as her reason for wanting to pray for the cardinal. “I didn’t want to be on standby with my faith.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, Lopez Rodriguez is among the top 11 candidates for pope. In Lawrence, where 76 percent of the population is of Dominican descent, many are waiting to see if the cardinal who visited St. Mary of the Assumption Church in 2003 will become the new spiritual leader of all Catholics.
“He was cordial and pleasant,” said the Rev. William Waters, then pastor at St. Mary.
“He said he felt at home with so many Dominicans there, and was happy to see so many people from his country practicing their faith,” said Waters, now campus minister at Merrimack College.