As archbishop of Boston, O'Malley has faced the fallout from the church's abuse scandals for nearly a decade. The fact he is mentioned at all as a potential papal candidate is testament to his efforts to bring together an archdiocese at the forefront of the abuse disclosures.

Like other American cardinals, the papal prospects for the 68-year-old O'Malley suffer because of the accepted belief that many papal electors oppose the risk of having US global policies spill over, even indirectly, onto the Vatican's image.

O'Malley is among the most Internet-savvy members of the conclave.