An Irish woman is tipped to make history as the first female cardinal in the Catholic church.
Initial reports in Spain and Washington suggested that Trinity College Dublin professor Linda Hogan is poised for the historic honour.
The Irish edition of the Sunday Times has picked up on the story and reports that the 49-year-old vice-provost of Trinity College Dublin could be eligible to cast a vote in the election of the next pope.
Hogan, a professor of ecumenics at Trinity has not commented on the speculation.
The story first appeared in Spanish paper El Pais which suggested that Pope Francis is planning to appoint a woman cardinal.
The recently elected pontiff has said that he wants women to have a stronger presence in the church.
The Sunday Times article says the conclave which elected him pope last February was widely criticised for the absence of women, other than to serve the cardinals’ meals.
A native of Callan in Kilkenny, Hogan has published work on gender, ethics and religion.
She graduated from St Patrick’s College in Maynooth in 1993 and has lectured at the University of Leeds and at the Jesuit-owned Milltown Institute in Dublin.
The report says her name was first floated by Fr James Keenan, a New York Jesuit attached to Boston College, on his Facebook page.
Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese is also a possibility for the role.
However, having qualified in canon law, she has publicly criticised the Vatican’s silencing of six Irish priests.