Former SF archbishop to take part in papal election


Cardinal Levada has known Pope Benedict XVI since the early 1980s, when the pope was known as Cardinal Ratzinger. Levada said he will meet with the pope Thursday morning for a farewell and he expects it to be very emotional for him.

When the pope was known Cardinal Ratzinger he chose Levada to replace him as the Prefect of the Congregation. Then when he was Pope Benedict XVI he elevated Levada to cardinal in 2006.

Cardinal Levada retired last year and said he never thought he would be part of a conclave. Levada said the pope's resignation surprised him. The cardinal plans to leave for Rome tomorrow and said even if you are not Catholic he asks that you keep him in your thoughts.

"I will be the first former archbishop of San Francisco to have the privilege and solemn duty. To exercise it well I rely on the prayers of all the faithful of the church. I also ask the prayers of my brothers and sisters in other Christian communities. Jesus has assured us that the prayers we pray to god will receive a response. I ask as well the good will and prayers of the whole community with this important moment in the history of the Catholic Church," said Levada.

The conclave is not without controversy; Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien will not participate in the papal election. There are reports that he made unwanted sexual advances towards priests in the 1980s. O'Brien denies the allegations, but said he does not want to be a distraction. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is under pressure to skip the conclave because of accusations he covered up for a pedophile priest. A source from the Catholic Church said Mahony is already on his way to Rome and won't excuse himself.

Also the new pope will get to see the results of a potentially explosive report about leaks from the Vatican. Italian newspapers say the report detailed evidence of corruption, blackmail and a gay sex ring -- all factors they point to as one reason for Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

The Vatican denied the reports and said only two people, Benedict and his successor will be able to view the actual findings. The pope met today with the three cardinals who did the top secret investigation to say he was satisfied with it.

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