Momentum builds for U.S. successor to Pope Benedict

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The cardinals are gathering in Rome to select Pope Benedict XVI’s successor — and calls are growing for someone hailing from the United States.

Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, the director of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, told CBS the possibility of an American pope is “not a long shot.”

“The field is wide open,” he said.

One American name tossed about is Cardinal Sean O'Malley, a Boston-based reformer who has hit hard against Catholic Church officials found guilty of sexual misconduct. That aggressive pursuit of sexual offenders, Mr. Figueiredo said, could actually crack the door wider for an American pope.

“The sex abuse scandal was a terrible scourge in the church,” he said, according to CBS. The new pope would have to take the reins on the issue, he said, and “certainly someone like Cardinal O’Malley, who has dealt with the crisis in Boston head-on, is needed to take the Church forward, for the good of the Church and the good of the world.”

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan said Tuesday he thought it “highly possible” the next pope could come from outside Europe, which would be the first time in history.

“When I was growing up, it was presumed the pope would be an Italian,” he said, according to the New York Times. “And we don’t even think that anymore, do we?”

Xavier L. Suarez, former Miami mayor and Boston Globe columnist, has thrown his support behind Mr. O'Malley.

“There are all kinds of reasons given for Pope Benedict’s resignation, but the main reason, other than his healthy, is likely the clergy sexual abuse scandal. O'Malley played a big role in restoring confidence in the church after sexual abused scandals in Fall River, Boston and Ireland,” he wrote.

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