Whilst the American press sings the praises of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, there are many respected observers who think that Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, might stand a better chance of being elected pope.
John Allen, the well known Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter has noticed that interest is growing in the Italian press about Cardinal O’Malley's chances.
Traditionally the prospects of an American pope are low because of the nations power on the world stage, but according to the Boston Herald Allen is openly calling the prospect of O'Malley being picked as 'thinkable' because America is no longer the only superpower.
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Journalists keep mentioning O’Malley, 68, 'partly on the strength of his profile as a reformer on the church’s sexual abuse scandals, and partly because of his Capuchin simplicity as a perceived antidote to the Vatican’s reputation for intrigue and power games,' Allen wrote.
'I can confirm the O’Malley buzz from personal experience. Right now, it’s tough for an American journalist to walk into the Vatican Press Office without fielding questions from colleagues about him,' Allen added.
There are challenges to his selection however. 'O’Malley has zero experience in the Vatican,' and is a 'sensitive soul who occasionally has seemed to struggle under the burden of office.' A
O’Malley has also had some detractors on his handling of the sex abuse scandals, Allen noted. And another potential road block is that no one from a religious order has been pope since the 19 century - and there’s never been a Capuchin, the order to which O'Malley belongs.
The Cardinal laughs at the speculation. Asked about it at a news conference last week O’Malley, who as a cardinal will travel to the Vatican to vote for the next pope, said: 'I haven’t lost any sleep about it, and I have bought a round-trip ticket, so I’m counting on coming home.'
He was born June 29, 1944 in Lakewood, Ohio. He was raised in western Pennsylvania, before entering a Franciscan seminary. He holds a master’s degree in religious education and a PHD in Spanish and Portuguese literature from the Catholic University of America in Washnigton.
He taught at Catholic University and founded Centro Catolico Hispano in Washington, an organization to help immigrants. He has served as bishop of Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands; Fall River, Massachusetts.; and Palm Beach, Florida. He was appointed archbishop of Boston in July 2003 and was named cardinal in 2006.
O’Malley reportedly became archbishop in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, which broke under his predecessor, Bernard F. Law. A flood of lawsuits and investigations resulted but O’Malley has come to be seen as someone who could try to mend the church's reputation in Boston.
In January 2012, reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of the crisis, O’Malley said his priority was to provide outreach and care for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and to 'do everything possible to make sure this abuse never happens again.'