The CNN website has the transcripts of today’s interview’s of 2 CM’s on LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER.Here to help us better understand that process, as well as discuss who could emerge as John Paul II’s successor, are three prominent priests.

In Chicago, Father David O’Connell: He’s the president of the Catholic University of America here in Washington. And in New York, Father Donald Harrington: He’s the president of St. John’s University, which is in New York. And in Rome is Father Andrew Greeley: He’s a professor at the University of Chicago.

Thanks to all three of you for joining us.

I’ll begin with you, Father O’Connell in Chicago. Any inside word, any sense that you have — and obviously it’s speculative — who might emerge as the next pope?

FATHER DAVID O’CONNELL, PRES., CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: Well, Wolf, this morning I was talking with one of the cardinals over there, and he said there is a strange feeling — that’s the word he used — a strange feeling in the air. I think it’s starting to sink in with the cardinals that there is a vacancy, that there’s an absence there, and a profound absence. But also a sense of the enormity of the task that lies ahead of them.

BLITZER: But no names, any names that you’d want to suggest that could emerge? Because a lot of our viewers around the world, Father O’Connell, certainly not familiar with all the names, the 115 cardinals?

There were 117 under the age of 80 that were eligible, but two of those cardinals, as you know, are sick and can’t participate in this election process.

O’CONNELL: Yes, I haven’t heard any of the cardinals or the people that are closest to the potential conclave mentioning any names. And of course it would be unseemly and inappropriate for them to do that.

But we have all kinds of speculation going on. You know the names that are appearing in all the newspapers, that it’s going to be a cardinal from this area or a cardinal from that area. What is interesting is, this is a conclave where the cardinals have had more of a chance to get to know one another before the actual conclave, even before the funeral of the pope began, because of technology, electronic media and, in more recent years, the number of meetings that have been called in Rome where the cardinals have been together to discuss various issues of importance to the church.

BLITZER: All right, let’s go to Rome. Father Greeley is standing by there. I know that no one knows who’s going to be the next pope. But you’ve been studying the list. You’ve been studying the various front-runners out there.

What goes through your mind, Father Greeley?

FATHER ANDREW GREELEY, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Well, if I’m a Chicago Democrat, as I am, then I would think Cardinal Ratzinger really controls the mechanisms. He is the dean. He gave the sermon at the pope’s funeral. He’s the one that recommended silence to the press — which, by the way, I think it was a terrible mistake. And he’s also the one that’s picked the people that are going to say the Mass and preach the sermon. So he controls the mechanism. Maybe he’s going to be the next pope.

BLITZER: He’s 76 years old…

GREELEY: But I wouldn’t…

BLITZER: … almost 77 years old.

GREELEY: That’s not old…

BLITZER: Pope John Paul II was, what, 58 when he became pope. Is that, isn’t that a little old at this point?

GREELEY: And John the 23rd was 77. Seventy-six isn’t old. Cardinal Ratzinger is not in good health. That’s another matter. The one I’d like to have is somebody from the Third World, particularly from South America.

Half the Catholics in the world are in South America. A quarter of the Catholics in the world are in Brazil. I mean, if the church should choose a pope from there, it would kind of be like Branch Ricky bringing Jackie Robinson into baseball. It would be a shattering and powerful experience.

BLITZER: Is there a name from South America, from Latin America that jumps out at you, Father Greeley?

GREELEY: Well, the name frequently mentioned, of course, is Cardinal Hummes from Sao Paolo, a small city of 20 million people. That’s Chicago and Los Angeles and New York and Detroit all combined. And two percent of the Catholics in the world are in his diocese. So he might make a good pope. I don’t know. I’m not voting.

BLITZER: I know you’re not voting, and Father Donald Harrington of St. John’s University in New York isn’t voting as well. But you’ve been thinking about this, Father Harrington. And what goes through your mind?

FATHER DONALD HARRINGTON, PRESIDENT, ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY: Well, Wolf, as you know I just returned from Rome a week ago. I happened to be there at the time the Holy Father passed away.

And standing in St. Peter’s Square, actually the afternoon that he died, that evening, I was very taken by the outpouring of love and affection on the part of people from all around the world who had gathered there.

And so very simply I would say this: We know because of the enormity of the task that we need someone who would have great gifts of head, great gifts of intellect. But having been there myself and later watched the funeral, we also need someone with great gifts of heart.

And I believe, for that reason, most probably there will be a compromise in a very good sense. I believe the cardinals will look for the best person who can balance wonderful gifts of intellect and wonderful gifts of heart. And that’s what I believe we need.

BLITZER: If we take a look at the breakdown of these 115 cardinal electors, 28 are from Europe, 21 from Latin America. The 28 from Europe does not include Italy. Italy alone has 20 of these cardinal electors. Fourteen from the U.S. and Canada, 11 from the U.S., three from Canada. Eleven from Africa, 11 from Asia — One- hundred fifteen total. Father O’Connell, what does that say to you, if anything, that breakdown of these 115 cardinals?

O’CONNELL: You know, Wolf, I don’t think the focus will be necessarily regional. I think the focus will be on what is needed in the person who assumes the papacy. I think in these days the conversation has been on the issues and needs that the church confronts.

But once those men walk in that door, once they lock in the door in the conclave, they’re going to be looking for a man, a person who embodies, as Father Harrington noted, certain gifts and talents.

You know, John Paul has set the bar very high. The person has got to be a great communicator. The person has got to be able to reach out to people, not only within the Catholic Church, but also the people of other religions. The person has got to be someone who is able to heal at times, some of the rifts and the divisions. And you can only do that by reaching out.

And also as bishop of Rome, someone who is going to be conscious of the situation in Europe: This is a situation where we have a church that — history was built around the Catholic Church in Europe. And now the culture there is rather secular. And that’s going to be a concern to the next pope as well, I think.

BLITZER: Father Harrington, let me pick up on a point that Father Greeley made and put some numbers up on the screen of where Catholics are right now around the world. North America has around 80 million Catholics; Latin America, 483 million, almost 500 million Catholics; Europe 277 million; Africa, 147 million; Asia, 124 million; another 9 million around the world elsewhere.

It looks, as Father Greeley said, a huge number in South America alone and Latin America. Does that suggest it’s time right now for the Vatican to break away from the Europeans and move elsewhere to get a non-European pontiff?

HARRINGTON: I would say, Wolf, that when John Paul II was elected, no one expected someone from Poland. And again, I believe the cardinals looked for special talents and gifts.

I think right now they will be looking for someone who can win the hearts of the young people, the future of the church and the world, and can walk with credibility among the leaders of the world.

And I honestly do not believe that geographics will play as big a role as some do. I believe that the — clearly that’s a consideration but not the major consideration.

BLITZER: All right, we’re going to pick up that thought in a moment. We have to take a quick break, though. We’re going to ask our panel to stand by. When we come back, we’ll continue our discussion about whether the next pontiff can fill John Paul II’s shoes, and what the Catholic church needs to do to keep faith with its followers.

The full transcript including their further comments and the interviews with 2 prominent senators and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman can be found on the CNN transcript site.