Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley will find his reputation enhanced with Catholics and non-Catholics when he returns to Boston from the papal conclave in Rome this week.
That’s the view expressed in an extensive feature in the Metro section of the Boston Globe newspaper outlining the reaction to O’Malley’s status in the Vatican ceremonies.
The paper says O’Malley’s ‘unexpected emergence’ in the last month as a serious papabile, or contender for the papacy, has elevated his image in Rome and in Boston.
Now observers believe O’Malley’s standing the church will be elevated, a decade after he took charge in Boston.
The report says his strong public presence in Rome might also offer a boost at home where pews are emptying, finances remain strained and he is in the midst of an ambitious effort to reorganize the archdiocese.
Rev. Chip Hines, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Medford, told the Boston Globe he was glad to see photos of O’Malley in Rome looking ‘relaxed and content’ while spending time with the other cardinals.
He said: “Sometimes, I think the stress of being here in Boston, making all these decisions - the buck stops with you - I think that puts a lot of pressure on Cardinal Sean.
When asked how his brush with the papacy would affect him going forward last week, Cardinal O’Malley brushed the question.
He joked: “I hope it means I get free dinners in the North End.”
Now John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter newspaper, has said O’Malley emerges from the conclave with a new status.
Allen told the Globe: “I don’t know before this anyone looked at Sean O’Malley as any kind of superstar, but on the back of the Roman love affair of the last three weeks, people will probably see him through a new lens.
“He has long been regarded as a specialist in addressing sexual abuse, but his papabile moment has broadened his profile. In the coming months and years, the Boston prelate may be offered more invitations to advise Rome on church councils and commissions.
“He may also be asked to speak at major events, perhaps at World Youth Day, which often attracts more than a million young people, and he will be in Brazil this summer for the event.”
Allen also believes that O’Malley could now be considered for jobs in the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy but that would require him to leave Boston with one possibility for the Capuchin friar being the job to run the department that oversees religious orders.
The report adds however that many observers doubt O’Malley would want such a job.
Allen is one of those and added: “He may be need more at home. When the Vatican says ‘We need a cardinal who can step in and hit a home run for us on something,’ they will tend to think of O’Malley.”
Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome said O’Malley might also be someone Pope Francis leans upon for advice as he is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and is a member of the Capuchin Franciscans.
Groome said: “He is, I’d say, a friend of this new pope. I could definitely see the pope calling on Cardinal Sean for advice.”