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Cardinal Sean O'Malley At Vatican As Conclave Preparations Begin

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean O'Malley is now at the Vatican to prepare for the election of the next pope.

The archdiocese had been quiet about his whereabouts until Wednesday afternoon when a spokesperson released a statement and a photo of O'Malley on a plane to Rome Tuesday night.

Read: O'Malley Biography

"(He) will attend Thursday's meeting with his fellow cardinals and the Holy Father. As this is a time for prayer and reflection he will not have any media availability before this meeting," the statement read.

Read: Who Is Sean Cardinal O'Malley?

There has been speculation O'Malley is among those being talked about to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who will officially step down Thursday.

O'Malley is one of 115 cardinals eligible to vote for the new pope.

Read: What is the conclave?

The last election was in 2005, when O'Malley was still a bishop. He became a cardinal in 2006.

Former Boston Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn says the cardinals could pick a date for the conclave to begin as soon as next Monday.

"It'll probably be somewhere in the area of the 10th of March where you could conceivably have a new leader of the Roman Catholic Church," Flynn says.

"I know this process very well, and I know politics very well. This is a great process and it brings out the best of opinion, diversity."

He says Cardinal O'Malley's knowledge of Latin American culture could be a huge attribute as his fellow cardinals consider him as a successor to Benedict.

"The only thing that's predictable is the unpredictable at a conclave."

WBZ-TV's Jim Armstrong contributed to this report.

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