WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — With Pope Benedict XVI announcing he will step down as pontiff on Feb. 28, is it possible that an American can run the Vatican?

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

Coincidentally, CBSDC looked into the possibility of an American becoming pope last April after Pope Benedict said during a homily that he was “facing the final leg of the path of my life.”

Father Edward Beck, a faith and religion contributor for CBS News, told CBSDC last year 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, also agreed with the assessment.

“You have to take Dolan into consideration,” Allen told CBSDC last April. “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” last year, 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.”

There are currently no front-runners to replace Pope Benedict, who took over the papacy after Pope John Paul II died in April 2005.


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