(WUSA9) -- Feverish speculation at the Vatican... Could the Archbishop of Washington be the next Pope in Rome?
Cardinal Donald Wuerl is now mentioned as a leading American contender, according to Allen Pizzey of CBS News.
"I think we have to stay in the real world, and the real world does not include me," Cardinal Wuerl told ABC News, when he was asked about his chances earlier this month.
But now comes new stories in the Italian media that an American might be an acceptable candidate... and that Wuerl's name keeps coming up... despite what up to now had been the conventional wisdom. "A pope from the superpower would probable have a lot going against him when he is trying to present a spiritual message to the rest of the world," the Cardinal told ABC.
After a Polish Pope... and a German Pope... some speculate the many Italian Cardinals may hope to give the ring of St. Peter back to an Italian. "The Italians have a love-hate relationship with Americans," says the Very Rev. Mark Morozowich, Dean of Theology and Religious studies at the Catholic University of America.
Morozowich says Cardinal Wuerl is a great communicator, theologian and administrator. "I think it's an absolutely great idea. But I don't think he has a great chance," he said.
And Cardinal Wuerl perhaps offers a less than clean break with the sexual abuse scandal. Some victims say he's done too little to warn parishioners about abusive priests. "This thing is going to haunt them for a thousand years," said David Lorenz of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests when Pope Benedict first announced his resignation.
But outside the Basilica there was a lot of excitement about the possibility of Wuerl becoming Pope. "That would be great," said parishioner Emmanuel David. "I'm a big fan of Cardinal Wuerl."
Cardinal Wuerl headed to Rome at the end of February for the papal conclave to select the next Pope. Wuerl is one of 11 U.S. Cardinals -- and one of 117 total -- who were eligible to participate in the conclave to find Pope Benedict the XVI's successor. The conclave involves the cardinal electors forced into seclusion until a decision of three-fourths majority is made on the new Pope.
In February, Wuerl asked for prayers in the biggest decision he'd ever make, and explained the process of being part of the conclave: "Once inside you are suppose to be quiet. The idea is listening to the Holy Spirit."
Wuerl told us he believes the next Pope will have to be younger, and at the same time, have the experience to be chief shepherd. At the time, he told us he was eligible to become Pope himself, but said it wasn't likely that any of the U.S. cardinals would be in the running for the position.
Thursday, The College of Cardinals will meet to discuss issues facing the new pope. The final cardinal is expected to arrive in Rome Thursday from Vietnam.