O’Malley rising?

John Allen this morning has some buzz surrounding the cardinal archbishop of Boston:

While the U.S. media has focused on Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as the most plausible, if still remote, American prospect, another name has generated a surprising degree of buzz in the Italian press: Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, partly on the strength of his profile as a reformer on the church’s sexual abuse scandals, and partly because of his Capuchin simplicity as a perceived antidote to the Vatican’s reputation for intrigue and power games…

…The well-regarded Vatican writer Paolo Rodari treated O’Malley at greatest length in a blog post last Saturday. “There are many who ask themselves if the next pope will be a Capuchin,” Rodari wrote. “On paper, the Capuchins have the numbers for giving the papacy a turning point. They’re close to the people, they don’t have a ‘clerical’ mentality, they emphasize collaboration with the laity, and they have an attractively simple model of life. Those are three characteristics cut out for a church that’s paid a high price for its scandals. … O’Malley is a humble prelate, which is no bad thing in a Roman Curia that’s suffering not just a few financial difficulties. It’s no accident that he’s a Prince of the Church who prefers his simple brown Capuchin habit to the sartorial splendor to which his office entitles him. He’s a cardinal who loves to dialogue with his faithful through Twitter, and uses his personal blog as an important instrument not only of communication but for meeting everybody, the faithful and even non-believers.”

I can confirm the O’Malley buzz from personal experience. Right now, it’s tough for an American journalist to walk into the Vatican Press Office without fielding questions from colleagues about him.

At the moment, this is basically journalistic chatter. The real action will begin next week, when most of the cardinals will be in town for Benedict XVI’s big farewell on Feb. 28. We’ll see then if O’Malley has serious traction as a candidate.

As the cardinals from other parts of the world start to take a serious look, they’re likely to see both promising qualities in O’Malley and question marks.

There’s much more.  Read it all.  

Meantime, Allen also offers a closer look at the man many believe is the most electable African, Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana.

And: for all those papal prognosticators out there, some sage advice from The Anchoresscomplete with a show tune!


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