ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – With the shocking news Monday morning of Pope Benedict XVI’s impending resignation came speculation about his successor.

While there has not been an American pope in the papacy’s history, the popularity and personality of St. Louisan Cardinal Timothy Dolan have led many to consider the possibility that he could rise to fill Benedict’s void.

“I’m as startled as the rest of you and as anxious to find out exactly what’s going on,” Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said on NBC’s TODAY Show this morning. “Except for prayer, I don’t know what else to do. I’ll await instruction with everyone else.” He added that the resignation left him “kind of somber.”

“Boy, I love this pope,” the cardinal said. “The world looks to him with respect and affection.”

Chester Gillis, an expert on the Catholic Church in America and a professor at Georgetown University, was interviewed on CBS Morning News Monday and asked whether Dolan was a possibility.

“I think actually that he is. It’s remote, because America is so powerful already so perhaps someone from our country to be the pope is adding power,” Gillis said. “I think the Italian cardinals will think differently of that, perhaps they would like the papacy back. But certainly Cardinal Dolan, who knows Rome very well, is known very well and is very popular is a possibility.”

KMOX Religion Editor Fred Bodimer put the question to Dolan’s youngest brother Patrick Dolan of St. Louis in February of last year when Dolan was elevated to Cardinal in Vatican City.

“It’s quite an honor that it’s even been talked about. I certainly couldn’t see it happening, not because he couldn’t or shouldn’t be, but because I just think the way the Church is it would stay on the European side or one of the big countries that have a bigger percentage of Catholics in their country,” Patrick Dolan replied.

He says, speaking purely in a selfish “little brother” sense, he hopes not because the family hardly sees Cardinal Dolan as it is and if he is elected pope someday, they’ll probably only see him on Midnight Mass at home on TV.

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