WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Will an American ever ascend to the role of pope?

In the history of the papacy, no American has ever held that title.

With rumors swirling about the health of 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI –- he has recently been using a cane to get around — questions have sprung up about his future after comments he made in his homily during mass Monday.

“I am facing the final leg of the path of my life and I don’t know what’s ahead,” Benedict said in his homily. “I know though that God’s light is there … and that his light is stronger than every darkness.”

However, Benedict — who took over after the passing of John Paul II in April 2005 — struck down any thoughts of him resigning as pope, asking for the strength “to fulfill the mission (the Lord) entrusted to me.”

Father Edward Beck, a faith and religion contributor for CBS News, tells CBSDC that the chances “are very slim” an American will become the next pope.

“I would put my money on an Italian becoming the next pope,” Beck said.

The problem cardinals from the U.S. face is the Vatican hierarchy believes in anti-consumerism, which they seem to relate to Americans.

“There is a certain bias or prejudice against somebody who reflects those values,” Beck told CBSDC. “The cards are kind of stacked right now (against an American pope) because of the cardinals in it.”

But, if there was ever an American to ascend to the throne as pope, Beck believes it would be New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

“Dolan is certainly well-respected and well-loved by his flock,” Beck said. “He has become the national spokesperson for the church.”

John Allen, Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, agrees.

“You have to take Dolan into consideration,” Allen told CBSDC. “Dolan may be a long shot, but it’s a realistic possibility.”

Allen added that Dolan has been a “go-to” guy for the pope.

“Dolan is the most important English-speaking Catholic bishop in the world,” he said.

Dolan has also not been afraid to make his voice heard on controversial topics, delving into the political world with his take on the health care-religious institution debate.

During an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation” earlier this month, Dolan said President Obama’s original mandate to have religious institutions cover contraception for women in their health care plan was “intruding into the life of faith.”

“You’ve got a dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the Church,” Dolan told CBS News. “Our problem is the government is intruding into the life of faith in the church that they shouldn’t be doing.”


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