An American Pope? Buzz Grows In Rome For Cardinal O'Malley05:08

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Audio report (above) is WBUR reporter's Deborah Becker's full conversation with John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter's Vatican correspondent. Text report (below) by WBUR's Newsroom.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, left, speaks to reporters in 2008. (AP)
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, left, speaks to reporters in 2008. (AP)

BOSTON — As Catholic cardinals head to Rome next week to say goodbye to Pope Benedict XVI, some Italian commentators are suggesting that Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley could be a candidate for the papacy.

Vatican reporter John Allen, with the National Catholic Reporter, says several Italian news reports mention O'Malley as a possible successor, praising his handling of the church sex abuse scandal despite criticism from victim advocates in Massachusetts.

Last week, O'Malley has made it clear that he is not interested in becoming pope, saying "it’s a very, very challenging position and it’s a very lonely position. It’s a very difficult task.

“I haven’t lost sleep about it and I have bought a round-trip ticket, so I’m counting on coming home,” O’Malley added.

Allen reported that before now, an American was rarely considered for the position.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom held that an American could not be elected to the Throne of Peter because you can't have a 'superpower pope,' " Allen wrote for the National Catholic Reporter. "In the early 21st century, however, some of the air has gone out of that bias, because the United States is no longer the world's lone superpower."

The Boston Archdiocese declined to comment on the news.

This program aired on February 19, 2013.