For the first time, we're hearing from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who will be among those in the upcoming conclave to pick a successor.
DiNardo says the importance of this is a decision cannot be overstated. He's' one of only a few people anywhere who get to help choose the next pope.
DiNardo was flying home from Rome on Monday as Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.
"Absolutely unaware of the announcement," he said.
He didn't know about it until that afternoon when they landed in Washington DC and the person next to him turned on their phone.
"The person sitting right next to me said 'the pope just resigned.' I said 'what?'" he said.
He scrambled to get confirmation and then realized that he would be one of just 118 voters who choose the next pope.
"When you go to elect the pope, its 'inconsciencia coremdeo.' They say it's on your own. You place your ballot there and it's your own," DiNardo said.
His mind was racing when he finally got home. He says he had little luck trying to get to sleep at 1am.
"I'm honored that I'm the first cardinal from the south. There hasn't been anything quite like this," He said. "I'm aware of my responsibilities in this."
This will be DiNardo's first time to participate in a conclave, which is the process of deep reflection and discussion which occurs when all the cardinals of the world lock themselves inside the Vatican.
We asked DiNardo what characteristics, in his opinion would be paramount for the next pope to possess: holiness and faithfulness, of course, he says, but also a great ability to communicate. He also would like to see the next pope be someone dedicated to world peace and who is willing to travel.
Many have commented that this resignation comes at a crossroads for the church -- a struggle between conservative leaders and those who want to be more liberal with some of the church's rules. DiNardo says he's not sure yet who might be best to lead the church into the future.
"I can be honest with you. I have no idea," he said. "But even if I did, I'd never tell you."
DiNardo expects to head back to Rome before the end of the month.
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