Papal Conclave: The Odds of a U.S. Pope

A U.S. cardinal might be a serious contender for the first time.
3:04 | 03/12/13

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Transcript for Papal Conclave: The Odds of a U.S. Pope
The rain has arrived here, as well. It has not dampened the spirits. Behind me today for the second time in eight years the college of cardinals come together to choose a pontiff and in just a few hours they will enter the sistine chapel. The doors will be sealed behind them and then the world's focus will be trained on the chapel's simple chimney behind me waiting for the white smoke that indicates a new pope has been elected. Today many in the vatican are asking a question rarely if ever posed before. Could that white smoke actually signal the election of the first american pope? The 115-cardinal electors who gathered from around the world entered st. Peter's basilica this morning. Celebrating holy mass for the selection of the new pope, their final gathering before the conclave officially begins later today d for the first time not one but two americans earned preconclave discussion as potential names on the electors' short list. The americans let their personalities shine and that's getting people to talk about them. Whether it's getting the cardinals to talk about them can another thing. Reporter: Timothy dolan's charismatic charms made him a darling of the italian media en as he's thought to lead a group of reformers opposed to the bureaucracy. The cardinals in america are fond of him. He's a very personable person, honest and direct and has a great sense of humor. Reporter: The other american contender, 68-year-old sean o'malley of boston is considered as humble as dolan is gregarious. Thought to be a most important quality for the cardinal electorate. o'malley prefers the simple habit over more ornate robes and his influence si of spanish, 40% of the catholics' language and fighting the scourge has burnished his candidacy. To see the common touch is something new, something they haven't seen in a while. Reporter: Still conventional wisdom the electorate would frown on giving the world's largest superpower supreme control over the church, as well. If an american walks out on that loggia what would your reaction. My jaw would drop so much i would need recon truck tiff surgery after hitting the cobblestones on the piazza. Reporter: North america could still claim the pontificate because of another strong contender from just slightly further north, the 68-year-old hockey playing cardinal mark willett. He found the calling to god after suffering a hockey injury in his native quebec. No matter who steps on the loggia, the american cardinals have impacted the coming papacy and direction of the church in ways never before seen. Robin? All right, josh, thank you very much and with you there is

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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