Next month, when the leaders of the Catholic Church meet in Rome, there will be bit of the black and gold behind the white smoke that signals the election of a new pope.
Of the 117 cardinals under age 80 who will vote in a secret papal conclave, three have ties to Pittsburgh, and although that makes up just 2.5 percent of the voting bloc, it's no small amount.
"Except for some Italian cities, that's a lot for one city to have," said Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer, law professor and dean emeritus at Duquesne University School of Law.
The announcement earlier this month that Pope Benedict XVI (not from Pittsburgh) planned to resign had little precedent in the history of the church and surprised many around the world, including Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, who discussed the development at a news conference with local reporters a few hours after the pope's Feb. 11 announcement.
Bishop Zubik likely found it far less surprising, however, that at the news conference a reporter asked him about the story's Pittsburgh connection.
Even in Rome, there was bound to be a Pittsburgh connection.
Of the 11 American cardinals who will travel to Rome to take part in a secret papal conclave that will likely take place next month, three have ties to here.
The native sons are Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., who was born in Pittsburgh and served as its bishop for 18 years; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston in Texas, who was born in Ohio but grew up in Pittsburgh and was ordained a priest here; and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, archbishop of Boston who was also born in Ohio but raised in Western Pennsylvania.
"It's just a tremendous honor for the church of Pittsburgh," said Bishop Zubik in a phone interview today.
A Pittsburgh presence in a papal conclave is not without precedent, but this occasion is the most that have been involved in the process to select the next leader of the Catholic Church.
"I personally think that simply shows the vibrancy of the Pittsburgh church," Mr. Cafardi said.