Sean O'Malley next pope? High hopes expressed for U.S. cardinal

(CBS News) Eleven cardinals from the United States are in the running to become the next pope. Among the Americans is Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley. He's one of the most talked-about names.

"Cardinal Sean," as he likes to be called, lives in a rectory in Boston -- a simple home for a simple man -- who is reportedly now getting serious consideration to become the next pope.

For weeks, he's been downplaying his chances of becoming the first American pope. He said early this month, "I have worn this uniform for over 40 years and I presume I will wear it until I will die because I don't expect to be elected pope."

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But that hasn't stopped prominent American supporters, such as former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, from making the case for him. Suarez said of O'Malley, "I don't think he would deviate on doctrinal matters, but I think he would change a lot of the pastoral things. There is a human side of things. He understands that very well. He's lived among people who are really are down and out."

O'Malley is fluent in seven languages. He has lived in Chile and the Virgin Islands, and belongs to the Capuchin Order, which is widely popular in Rome for its simplicity. If O'Malley is chosen, he would become the first pope in 213 years to sport a beard.

Brother Celestino Arias lives in a Boston friary O'Malley often visits. The cardinal is known to clean his own dishes after dinner. But Arias warns: don't be fooled by O'Malley's humility.

"The church certainly needs a lot of what Cardinal Sean has to offer. His dealing very firmly with the scandal in several dioceses now. People can criticize particulars, but he has been very firm and consistent in his critique, and I think the church to regain some of its credibility that it's lost, this is vital."

O'Malley inherited the child abuse scandal when he came to Boston in 2003. He sold the cardinal's residence there to help settle an $85 million lawsuit with the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Bernie McDaid was abused by a priest. He said of O'Malley, "I don't hate the man, but I don't appreciate where he's left us off."

McDaid complains O'Malley was slow to release names of alleged pedophile priests -- a list some victims say remains incomplete.

Asked if O'Malley would make a good pope, McDaid said, "If he can open up, and see that there is more to this than just the settlements in his job he probably could be something special for this church."

For Jim Axelrod's full report, watch the video above.