(NECN: Jennifer Eagan, Boston) - By the time Ana Arroyo headed into the 7 o’clock Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, she had already heard about the speculation Cardinal Sean O’Malley is on the short list to be the next pope.
"I think it’s wonderful," Arroyo said. "I have met him. He is a nice person."
Buzz has been generated by John Allen, a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, who reports the Italian press has been talking about O’Malley’s potential papal candidacy, since Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down citing health reasons.
Thomas Groome, professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, believes there is substance to the buzz. Groome says O’Malley has many of the qualities needed to be the next head of the Roman Catholic church, from a command of many languages to his simplistic style.
"It would be fun to see him get rid of some of the trappings of power that surround the papacy," Groome said Tuesday.
O’Malley has been lauded by many for his handling of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic church. Groome’s office at Boston College sits on land once owned by the diocese.
"The first thing he did when he came into Boston was sell his residence to Boston College and distribute the money to bring some semblance of settlement or recompense to the victims," Groome pointed out.
Many believe an American pope is unlikely given the country’s power, but Groome believes those days are passing. So what does O’Malley think?
"I haven’t lost any sleep about it and I have bought a round trip ticket. I’m counting on coming home,” Cardinal O’Malley said, joking with reporters last week.