While these are enormous challenges for Pope Francis, the grace of God is sufficient for faithful church leaders to lead. And Jorge Bergoglio is said to be such a man of God -- fervent in personal faith and consistent prayer.
The Cardinals understood that they needed a pope who is close to the less fortunate, and far from the ostentation and intrigue of the palazzo. And that's who they've chosen.
An event like this only comes around every few decades, so it's a big news week for the Vatican's biggest -- and only -- gossip rag, Papal Magazine. Check out some of the highlights.
Maybe the new pope will realize that to be universal, the church needs to embrace differences and expand love rather than embracing limiting and separatist beliefs.
Today was probably the first -- and last -- time someone who is both Muslim and gay will be the one to bring Catholic priests news of a new Pope.
When so much about the Catholic Church seems both antiquated and sick at this moment, like a building whose foundation is crumbling, maybe it needs to come down and be rebuilt differently.
The Vatican has been happy to let us know how serious they are about security, anxious to tell the world they can indeed keep a secret. But no cardinal is fooled by the slamming door; they all know they cannot keep the world out.
Men of conclave, you will reach a Decision soon, I am sure of it as the well being of your church and livelihood depends on it. But how many more conclaves can go on without a shift in thinking?
Does the Catholic church need to worry about being innovative? I'd like to hear from both Catholics and from critics. The church's recent very-public crises certainly demonstrate a lack of adaptability and agility.
As Roman Catholic cardinals gather in the magnificent Sistine Chapel to select a new pope, their conclave is at a critical crossroads. Will the cardinals vote for a pope who can re-energize the faithful, and restore the trust that has been missing for millions of lapsed Catholics?
The choice will depend on whether the 117 Cardinals voting will lean more toward seriously reforming the Catholic Church -- notably as it relates to the continuing problem of pedophilia and lack of transparency -- or roughly keeping to the status quo.
Whoever succeeds Pope Benedict faces challenges that will impact Catholics everywhere, but will the choice have any impact on Catholic doctrine, which many believe is suspended somewhere between the Council of Trent counter-reformation and Vatican II.
I'm no theologian, but I have heard for a lifetime, from Catholic preachers and teachers of all stripes, that "the least" matter the most in the eyes of God.
As the conclave begins on Tuesday, much of the Muslim world looks at the future of the papacy with a hope that the new pope will build on the positive aspects of the previous two papacies and create a relationship of deeper dialogue and mutual understanding with the Muslim community.
How about a trans-Atlantic task swap? Simply have the Cardinals hammer out a deficit reduction deal and let the U.S. Congress select the next pope. Remove the political context in both cases, reason and compromise prevail and everybody's home in one day.