MIAMI (CBS4) – When the cardinal electors file in to the Sistine Chapel Tuesday to begin the conclave to choose the next pope, a deacon at a South Florida school will be watching closely.
“This is a momentous time in our church,” Deacon Robert O’Malley said.
The reason for his interest in the conclave is not limited to religion. O’Malley is also profoundly interested in which cardinal will emerge as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics because his own cousin is on the short list of people to take the job.
“If you ask Cardinal Sean, he would probably downplay his prospect as the next pope. He’s very humble,” Deacon O’Malley said from the chapel of Belen Jesuit School where he is the head of the theology department.
O’Malley’s cousin is Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley.
The cardinal is the Archbishop of Boston. He also previously led the dioceses of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Palm Beach.
Cardinal O’Malley has committed his life to helping the needy.
“He is very compassionate,” Deacon O’Malley said. “He has a special place in his heart for the poor.”
According to his cousin, Cardinal O’Malley once wanted to become a missionary in South America.
Instead, his holy journey kept him mostly in the United States. He worked with the Hispanic community in Washington for a time in the 1970s when he met current Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez.
“He’s very beloved,” Commissioner Suarez said of his long-time friend. “He’s self-effacing and doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
Suarez thinks Cardinal O’Malley is a papal contender.
“He has the track record of being the number one trouble shooter in sex abuses cases.”
Besides his reputation for being strict in the face of the scandal, Suarez noted the cardinal’s humor and humility among his best qualities.
“He’s a prince of the church, but he acts more like a pauper than a prince.”
A member of the Capuchin order, Cardinal O’Malley lives a simple life with few possessions.
He hinted recently he doesn’t anticipate exchanging his brown habit for the papal vestments.
“I have worn this uniform for 40 years,” Cardinal O’Malley said at a news conference a week before the conclave was set to begin. “I will wear it until I die because I don’t expect to be pope.”
For mass last Sunday, the cardinal wore the traditional red of cardinals as he entered a church in Rome where he delivered mass in Italian. He also speaks Spanish, Creole and Portuguese fluently.
He’s joked he bought a roundtrip ticket and plans to return to Boston, but his vast knowledge of languages should come in handy should he find himself living in Vatican City.
“We’re praying for him,” Deacon O’Malley said. “We’re excited and looking forward to the next few days.”