LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Students at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School are following the papal conclave by taking part in the ritual in their own way. The school is holding a classroom conclave and following church traditions with a lesson in history and religion.
The processional of 5th and 6th grade students moved into a classroom transformed into the Sistine Chapel. Then the student cardinals took the Conclave oath. After that it was down to the business of selecting their next leader.
For this lesson of faith and history, the candidates are fellow students.
Father Mike Austin told the students, "You have a list in front of you of the gentleman in the school eligible to be Pope. Remember the characteristics that we're looking for in a spiritual leader, a gentleman of prayer, a gentleman with leadership skills, a gentleman who is highly respected in our school."
School leaders are working to keep the process as realistic as possible, so when the voting began, our camera had to go.
"Everybody out," said one of the student Cardinals.
Father Austin explained, "The whole purposes of being locked in conclave behind closed doors is not to keep everyone on the outside in the dark, but to keep us from being influenced by the outside. So we can keep our minds clear to listen to the voice of God."
Another nod to tradition, only the boys were part of the conclave. The girls played the roles of eager reporters trying to find out if any of the candidates received the two thirds majority needed to be elected.
"Sorry, I have no comment, " said several of the student Cardinals as they exited the classroom.
Tuesday, no one emerged as the clear front runner. So Wednesday morning, black smoke billowed out of the school's small chimney. The students say it's been a real learning experience.
"I never understood how nerve-racking it would be to have to go through this whole process. Now that we're in it, you understand what it's like to be a real Cardinal in Rome," said 6th Grade student and Cardinal, Alex Koons.
School leaders say understanding the process is what this mock conclave is all about.