Crowds lined the walls and spilled out the front door of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Monte Mario on Sunday to catch a glimpse of the gregarious American Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, who smiled broadly as he came into the church, stopping to wave to photographers and kiss a baby whose parents were holding him up.
Dolan has made the short lists of some Vatican watchers as a likely choice to be elected as the next pope by the College of Cardinals, a designation called "papabili" in Italian.
A local officiant began the service by saying it was great to have Dolan at the church close to Easter.
"All these people are showing the power of the church," he said.
Dolan thanked the officiant in Italian.
"Thank you for the kind words. This is a big task. Truly a blessing to be with you. Now let's get to why we're here -- to pray."
He led the congregants of his titular church in a prayer of contrition. A titular church is the house of worship in Rome assigned to a cardinal when he gets his red hat. It's by virtue of technically being a priest of Rome that a cardinal gets to vote for the Bishop of Rome -- the pope.
The Mass proceeded in Italian.
In his homily, Dolan said he was "full of joy to be here at my titular church" and that he always feels "at home here."
"After St. Patrick's Church -- here's a secret -- this is my favorite," Dolan said, drawing applause from worshippers. "Don't tell the people of New York, OK?"
He spoke briefly about the reason the world's cardinals have descended on Rome, the conclave, which he called a "system of prayer -- and it's also a joy for the cardinals to pick a pope."
"Thank you for being here," he said. "I'm not going to say too much. Just thanks for being here with me. "
After the service, reporters were hustled into an alley, then led to a courtyard in the rectory next to the church.
Dolan fielded a bevy of questions from reporters on the cardinals' thinking heading into the conclave and speculation he may be the one to emerge as the next supreme pontiff for the Catholic Church. He laughed off many of the questions and said the cardinals were ready for their time of prayer and discernment.
Dolan said not only was he ready for the conclave to begin but he also added, "I'm ready to go home -- I've run out of socks."
When asked what type of socks he needed, he said he needed green socks for St. Patrick's Day, because he already had plenty of red in his cardinal wardrobe.