Vatican reporter: O'Malley long-shot contender for pope

Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley may have an outside shot at becoming the next pope, according to a Vatican reporter.

A senior reporter in Rome said O'Malley has been talked about in the Italian press as a possible successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict is expected to step down by the end of the month. He is the first pope in 600 years to resign.

John Allen Jr., a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, said O'Malley might get a "serious look" to become the next pope.

He reported that O'Malley's image as a reformer on the church's sex abuse scandals, especially during his time as bishop of Fall River, has the Italian media mentioning him as a long-shot.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is also getting some attention. Though Allen said an American cardinal would be a tough sell in the end.

An expert from Providence College agreed.

"I don't see so. Not just because of the superpower problem, but also any American prelate is going to be connected somehow to the sex abuse crisis, which the cardinals are going to be very eager to get past," Dr. James Keating, a professor of theology, told NBC 10 News.

O'Malley, 68, recently downplayed any suggestion he might be considered. He said he's bought a round trip ticket to Rome, meaning he plans on coming home.