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It still remains an outside possibility, but some insiders are speculating the next pope could be American.
The taboo against an American is an unspoken geopolitical hang-up – but now could be the time for change.
“There are two main credible figures, Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York and Cardinal Sean O’Malley in Boston,” said Franca Giansoldati, Vatican reporter for the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero.
“They have managed to reunite believers with the Church after the Vatileaks scandal and the paedophile crisis, which had damaged the Church. They are modern and have a modern way to seeing things. I think they have a chance,” added Giansoldati.
Often described as charismatic, Dolan was educated in Rome and has led the American seminary there.
He has also been president of the American bishops since being elected in 2009.
However, his high-profile media presence may irritate some of the cardinals.
Unlike Dolan, O’Malley speaks Italian, which is always seen essential for a pope due to his day-to-day work.
Nevertheless, O’Malley’s modern ways may count against him as some see him as too progressive to attract the Church’s conservative core leadership.