ROME – Though cardinals refuse to discuss it, the question of who will be the next pope is clearly on the minds of many Catholics.
Cardinals have stopped their interviews with the media ahead of their meeting next week to select a papable candidate. And they apparently think the faithful should stop talking about the matter as well.
"Let us not be uselessly and too humanly curious to know ahead of time who (the next pope) will be," Cardinal Camillo Ruini (search), the late pope's vicar for Rome, said at a Mass Sunday afternoon at St. Peter's Basilica — a daily rite during the nine official days of mourning for John Paul II (search).
"Let us instead prepare to receive in prayer, trust and love he whom the Lord chooses to give us," said Ruini, who celebrated the Mass with Krakow's Cardinal Franciszek Macharski (search).
That didn't prevent pilgrims wandering about St. Peter's Square from sharing their views on the matter as they shopped for souvenirs with images of John Paul.
"I'd be happy if he's not Italian," said Romina Abbadini, 35, from San Benedetto del Tronto, in central Italy. "Who would have ever known that a Polish pope could do so much for his country? Maybe a South American pope would do so much for those countries."
Angela Langedijk, a Dutch woman who lives in Zurich and develops courses for doctors at Zurich University, made the case for an African pope.
"I think it would give Africa the chance to show something of its culture that it can't show now, and I think it would be good since most Catholics aren't white and we've always had a white pope," she said.
The names of those emerging as possible papal successors include contenders from Latin America, such as Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Brazil and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and a Vatican official from Africa: Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria.
Europeans mentioned include Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria and German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Italian "papabili" include Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.
But John Paul remained uppermost in the minds of many in St. Peter's as they glanced forlornly at the window overlooking the square from where the pope traditionally greeted the faithful on Sundays throughout his 26-year pontificate.
"Something is missing, I was so used to seeing him," said Daniele Paoli, a 32-year-old computer specialist who lives near the Vatican.
Vatican officials were expected to announce Monday when the grotto beneath the basilica holding John Paul's body would reopen. Keeping it shut was seen as a way to empty the Eternal City of the millions of pilgrims who converged on the capital for the pope's funeral.
Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, was scheduled to celebrate Monday's daily Mass of mourning in St. Peter's Basilica, and leaders of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said they were flying to Rome to protest, saying Law's presence was painful to clergy sexual abuse victims and embarrassing to Catholics.
Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after unsealed court records revealed he had allowed priests guilty of abusing children to move among parish assignments and had not notified the public.
Vatican security was preparing the Sistine Chapel for the papal election, taking undisclosed measures to thwart would-be hackers or electronic eavesdroppers from listening in on the cardinals' private deliberations and getting early word of who the next pope might be.