TODAY   |  March 10, 2013

Could the next pope be an American?

Of the nominations for pope, several names are coming to the surface, including that of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York. Another American, Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston, is also considered one of the top papal contenders. TODAY’s Lester Holt interviews NBC contributor Father Robert Barron.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> what can we expect over the next couple of days. father robert baron is an nbc news contributor and a president of a seminary. good morning. great to have you on.

>> good morning, lester. thanks.

>> it is so easy to look at this in political term like political races. i hear the term front-runner and pause for a moment. are there some names talked about more than others.

>> your shoo. you listen to the vatican. people here and back home, maybe 10 or 12 names began to emerge. marc ouellet . angelo scola , archbishop of milan, and more and more, timothy dolan of new york people are talking about. maybe 10 or 12 are on most of the lists.

>> people are talking about, mink aulg of us out here. when the cardinals got in the room this past week to meet in congregations, they know each other to some extent. were they vetting each other also?

>> sure. i think they were talking about state of the church, trying to get a sense of someone from latin america , what's going on there and someone in europe and asia. they know each other to some degree. i think it is an opportunity to button hole each other and find out what's going on.

>> this is the first conclave truly of the digital social media era. these are cardinals that come from all over the world. they are all keenly aware of twitter. they know what's being said on 24-hour cable. do you think that has some effect on their thinking, knowing what's being said about them?

>> i think so. how couldn't it? they are trying to be open as much as possible to the holy spirit . he works through secondary causes and ordinary human beings and the process of the conclave. they are attentive to all of it and finally underneath, listening trying very hard to hear the voice of the holy spirit .

>> it is not unusual for someone at the bottom to aspire their way to the top thinking, someday i might be. do priests in general think, someday, i could be one of those cardinals walk nooth conclave, someday, i could be pope?

>> i don't think so. first of all, because the job is so punishingly difficult. we are trained very much in the spiritual order not to aspire of something on our own esteem. if someone else notices, you would be good at that or they put you forward, that's one thing. then, to discern the will of god.

>> you mean to tell me, those 115 cardinals, not among them are thinking, i could be pope?

>> of course, those gentlemen, one of them will become the pope. generally speaking, it is not a good idea spiritually. we are all flawed and sinners. so that kind of crude ambition comes in sometimes.

>> thanks so much for your insight. we appreciate it. it will be an interesting week ahead.