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Irish in the mix



Cardinals O'Malley and Dolan seen as papal contenders

By Jim Smith

BOSTON --- It might end up being Red Sox versus Yankees - in the conclave.

The names of both Cardinals Sean O'Malley and Timothy Dolan have been prominent in the papal tipping stakes in recent days, this aided by a developing view that being from the U.S. might not be the impediment that it has been in past papal votes.

John Allen, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, suggested that O'Malley has earned a reputation as a humble Franciscan Friar who has worked effectively toward healing the wounds of clergy sexual abuse here and abroad, and in the eyes of some Vatican insiders may have the ideal temperament and background to be the next pontiff.

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The 68-year-old O'Malley, whose ancestral roots are in Westport, County Mayo, earned very high marks in Boston for his handling of the sexual abuse crisis in 2003 after he took over for Cardinal Bernard Law, who had resigned amid allegations that he had gravely mishandled the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

O'Malley reached out to victims and implemented tough new reporting laws immediately after becoming archbishop in Boston. In 2010, Pope Benedict appointed him as an apostolic visitor to the diocese of Dublin in response to the sexual abuse crisis which Irish government reports said had gone on for decades within "a culture of secrecy."

In addition to his extensive outreach and experience in the area of sexual abuse, O'Malley is highly regarded for his strong links to the Hispanic and Haitian communities. Fluent in several languages, he has a doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese literature from Catholic University.

He was bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands from 1984 until 1992, when he became bishop of Fall River in Massachusetts. After a short stint as bishop in Palm Beach, Florida, he replaced Cardinal Law in July 2003.

In a news conference last week, O'Malley said that he has a "round trip" ticket to Rome and has no expectation of becoming the next leader of the church.

Cardinal Dolan, meanwhile, has also been named in media reports as a possible successor to the retiring Benedict although some coverage in recent days has focused more on his dealing with the pedophile scandals during his time in Milwaukee.

Dolan is seen as being orthodox in matters of faith and also an energetic administrator at a time when the church is in need of a steady hand at the helm.