Following the Papal Conclave: An Inside Look with Michael W. Higgins

Michael W. Higgins

News Story: March 6, 2013

Sacred Heart University’s Vice President for Mission and Catholic Identity Michael W. Higgins is currently in his homeland of Canada serving as an expert on the papal conclave for CTV News. In that role, Higgins needs to be available 24 hours a day to respond to any breaking news from Rome.

“Unfortunately when they send the limo for me at 3:30 a.m., the first place they take me is the makeup room, not the coffeepot,” Higgins laughingly said, while admitting that the brutal schedule is taking its toll. He is at the studio from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is usually interviewed on air several times a day. In between, he keeps up to date on the Internet and, even after he heads home, remains on call should something break in Rome, which is six hours ahead of Toronto.

Higgins said he answers questions on everything from the general congregations and the process of holding a conclave to the candidates themselves. And he agreed to share some of his observations with the Sacred Heart community as well.

For example, he said the group is currently waiting for two more cardinals to arrive in Rome. Once everyone has gathered, the College of Cardinals will decide when they are going to start the process and make an announcement. “The process is extremely protracted. It’s a little ridiculous,” Higgins noted.

Higgins does not believe Canadian prospect, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, will be chosen. “I’m not sure that’s the direction the church wants to go in as he will continue the conservative style of the most recent regime. But who know what will happen when they get into conclave? They tend to surprise us,” he said.

Conclave law is often amended, Higgins said, and current law calls for a 2/3 majority over a specified period of time to agree on the new pontiff. The College will vote four times a day.

This is not the first time that Higgins has served as an expert commentator, but he said it gets more draining as he ages. “The wackiness of the hours is harder. Once I’m in the studio, the adrenaline kicks in, but some days I’m operating on a couple hours of sleep. It’s exhilarating, but very tiring.”

To follow Higgins' Papal Musings blog on, click here.