Local Theologian Who Worked With The Pope Shares Papal Memories

As a man who worked along side, took communion from, and served mass with Pope John Paul the second, John Switzer has vivid and fond memories of late holy father.

"He was very friendly, very gregarious, outgoing," says the Ocean Springs native. "He didn't hesitate to reach out to shake hands. I remember preparing to serve mass with him and he was very good at making us feel at home."

As a former 3 year student of the priesthood in Rome, Switzer knows what's likely happening right now behind Vatican Walls.

"Right now behind the scenes there's a tremendous amount of official frenzy as things are being prepared for the Conclave," said Switzer.

He can invision the atmosphere on the streets he walked every day as a young student.

"I imagine if I were there right now there would be a lot of conversation going on right now at coffee shops and wine bars about will we get an Italian Pope again next time," he said.

And as a current theology professor and life long Catholic, Switzer knows his church history.

"In 1378, the cardinals had gathered in Rome to elect the Pope and the Romans actually rioted. They had just had a non Italian, and the cardinals were meeting on the 2nd floor of the building and they stacked the 1st flood with fire wood and said we will set it ablaze if you don't give us an Italian Pope," Switzer added.

While Switzer doesn't expect anything like that during this selection, he says everyone there is well aware the world spotlight is on them.

"And the Romans have a real flare for the dramatic so they're going to play that up," says Switzer. "I'd like to be there at night when they're sharing a bottle of wine and their tong loosens up and hear what they really think about where the direction of the church should be in the next decade."