We have a new Pope Francis but speculation about who will eventually succeed him started the hour his new papacy was announced.

According to John Allen, the ace Vatican reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, the answer could lie closer to home after the recent papal conclave upped the international profile of St. Louis native and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan greatly.

Allen was one of the very few who gave Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio a definite shot before the conclave.

Now he says that while Cardinal Dolan was an American figurehead before the conclave, he is now viewed as a major figure on the global Catholic stage.

'The last two Popes were elected at 78 and 76 years old,' Allen said. 'Dolan is only 63 which means this might not be his last bite at the apple.'

Allen said he believed that some in the Italian old guard felt that Cardinal Dolan's jovial public face plays well in New York but might have been a bit of a shock to the system in Rome.

'But, on the other hand, even here in Rome the wheels are turning. In particular, if we get the reform of the system that many people expect Pope Francis will deliver, it might be a different electorate the next time that might be more ready for the type of high-octane personality someone like Tim Dolan supplies,' he said.

According to those dependable predictors of the future, the Paddy Power bookmakers in Ireland, Dolan's odds may not be great (he was 25/1 in February) but his increasing profile in Vatican circles could see him become a surprise choice in a future conclave where there is no obvious front runner.

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