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O'Malley Outside Shot for Papacy

O'Malley Rumored to be Contender for the Papacy

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 22:02

Boston’s own Cardinal Sean O’Malley has been mentioned as a potential candidate for Pope in the recent buzz surrounding the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to take effect on Feb. 28. Pope Benedict, who said in a Vatican announcement that he will step down due to health concerns, was the first to do so in more than six centuries. O’Malley, the current cardinal of Boston who has faced controversies, such as the child sexual abuse scandal, during his time as Cardinal, has been mentioned by Vatican watchers and the Italian press as a potential successor to Benedict.


Benedict’s papacy ends today. The decision was mostly made due to the declining health of the Pope. At 85 years old, he leaves after eight years of service as the pope. The resignation of a pope is not unprecedented, but it is rare—the last Pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415.


In the wake of this resignation, many have speculated that O’Malley could be a possible contender for the papacy. There was mention of him in the Italian media, with papers such as the AGI and Il Giornale, as well as notable Vatican watchers putting him on the list of the best American possibilities. This speculation differed from the American press, most of whom named Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, as the most likely candidate from the United States.


O’Malley, 68, was born in Ohio and grew up in Pennsylvania, where he attended a Franciscan seminary. He has a master’s degree in religious education and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature, both from Catholic University of America. He then went on to teach at Catholic University and began a center for Hispanic immigrants in Washington, D.C. He has held numerous positions as a leader in the church, including being the bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Fall River, MA, and Palm Beach, FL. He was named archbishop of Boston in 2003 after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law in the midst of the sex abuse scandal, and appointed to Cardinal in 2006. His handling of the sex abuse scandal has gained him approval and recognition in the Catholic community.


O’Malley’s personality also makes many think that he is well-suited for the job. He has been described as low-key and simple. If he does not appear in public in his Cardinal’s clothing, he often is seen wearing a simple black cassock, reminiscent of the dress of a monk. Vatican writer Paolo Rodari mentioned this simplicity as a strength of O’Malley’s in a blog post on Saturday, Feb. 16 saying, “O’Malley is a humble prelate, which is no bad thing in a Roman curia that’s suffering not just a few financial difficulties.” Rodari also mentioned the importance of the way O’Malley maintains a connection with the public through media such as Twitter and a blog.


Professor Thomas Groome from the School of Theology and Ministry also commented on the Cardinal’s humbleness in an email.


“He is a holy man, and a person of simplicity of life style; both would surely be welcome in a pope. Then, he is a person of good judgment and balance, neither extreme right or left. He would be a bridge-builder, which is what the Church very much needs right now.  And he would have the language skills that are needed in a pope to be able to communicate across many cultures,” Groom said. He did note, however, that it is unlikely that an American would be chosen as the next Pope, especially as there has never been one before.


O’Malley will soon leave for Rome for the Papal Conclave which will decide who will take the place of Benedict XVI. He and 116 other cardinals will gather in the Sistine Chapel to begin the highly secret process of choosing the next Pope. The voting process will take approximately a month, and it is likely a new pope will be named by the end of March.

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