Cardinal Sean O’Malley said he has bought a two-way plane ticket to Rome, but local Catholics cannot help but wonder if the archbishop of Boston might end up being elected the next pope.
After all, no less an ecclesiastical expert than John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, has noted that the Italian press has put O’Malley on a “short list” of “papabili’’ — Italian for those regarded as capable of serving as leader of the Catholic Church.
O’Malley is among the 117 cardinals who will assemble to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, who stunned the church and the world by announcing last week he will resign as of Feb. 28 due to declining health.
“Certainly he has a lot of the capabilities,” Betty Desjardins, pastoral associate at Sacred Hearts Church in Bradford, said of O’Malley.
Desjardins, who has a background in campus ministry and assists Sacred Hearts Pastor the Rev. John Delaney in the administration of the parish, credited O’Malley with providing effective leadership for the archdiocese in the wake of the sex abuse scandal.
During his tenure as bishop of Fall River and Palm Springs, Fla., O’Malley was known for removing pedophiles from active ministry and not shuffling them to other parishes. He has continued that policy during his decade of service in Boston.
”He’s a humble man,” Desjardins said, noting that O’Malley usually wears the simple dress and sandals of a Franciscan priest.
”He’s a fine candidate,” Desjardins said. But as to whether O’Malley has a chance of being the first American pope, “I kind of don’t think that’s going to happen,” she said.
”It’s anybody’s guess,” the Rev. Timothy Kearney, pastor of All Saints Church in Haverhill, said of the possibility of O’Malley becoming pope.