Choice Is Surprise to Some
By Eric Convey
February 23, 2006
That Boston would have a cardinal is hardly stunning. For 71 of the last 95 years, the leader of the region's Catholics has also been one of the 100 or so men who steer the world's biggest religious group.
But that Pope Benedict XVI would use his first chance to elevate Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley to cardinal - especially given Boston's status as the epicenter of the clergy sexual abuse crisis four years ago - caught some church-watchers off-guard.
"These things aren't automatic," said Peter Meade, an insurance executive and unoffical counselor to O'Malley.
For one thing, Meade noted, the United States is heavily represented in the College of Cardinals.
With yesterday's appointments there will be 15 U.S. cardinals. But the country has only about 6 percent of the world's Catholics.
Additionally, former Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law, now living in Rome, is still young enough to vote in a papal election where those voting cannot be older than 80. It is unusual to have two cardinal-electors from the same place.
While O'Malley was headed toward a seat on the college of cardinals, he didn't show it as a young priest living among the poor in Washington, D.C., said Michele Bowe, who knew him then.
"He was just an icon in the neighborhood. The little kids loved him . . . people were just very attracted to him," she said, adding, "It never really seemed to me that he'd be a bishop . . . he never had any ambitions."
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