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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Students from Alexandra Hustiu's fifth-grade class at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Kearns, Tuesday, discuss who they think will be the next pope March 12, 2013. At front are Aubrey Burgener, left, and Amber Hingley.

KEARNS — As cardinals in Vatican City met behind doors Tuesday to begin the process of selecting a new pope, students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School held their own conclave of sorts.

Eighth-graders in Veronica Brand’s class are on “Pope Watch.” They wrote their names on a map with pictures of frontrunners to replace Pope Benedict XVI. The majority of the votes from the Kearns students went with Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

“He seems pretty interesting and he has a lot of votes, so I think he’ll be pretty good,” eighth-grader Emilio Luzero said. “I think he will make our world strong and we can trust more people.”

Most students said they were looking for diversity in the church.

“I think it’s going to be a European" cardinal, said eighth-grader Hailey Smith, who chose Christoph Schönborn from Vienna. She wants a pope who will address social changes, but not to make major changes too quickly.

Other names included Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who heads the Vatican's powerful office for bishops, and U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the exuberant archbishop of New York.

Cardinal Ouellet was Nathaniel Martinez’s choice. He felt the Canadian cardinal could bring new ideas and inspire the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. Insiders view him as a combination of the Old World and the New World Catholic Church.

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy is seen as favored by those hoping to shake up the powerful Vatican bureaucracy, and Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer is favored by Vatican-based insiders who have defended the status quo.

Rosanna Tafaoialii felt Cardinal Leonardo Sandri would be a good pope based on tradition. He is from Argentina and has held the third-highest Vatican post as its chief of staff of the secretariat of state from 2000 to 2007.

While the names of Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston have been on the list of favorite contenders, Martinez doesn’t think an American will be the next pope.

“Not so much, he said, “maybe because of power and all that. America does have power, and they really don’t want that much power in the hands of the pope.”

Contributing: Associated Press 

E-mail: vvo-duc@ksl.com