HIS name was not even on the original list, but last night a former student of the Pope became a leading contender to head the Catholic church in Belfast.
After a top-secret meeting at the Vatican, Father Vincent Twomey was tipped to become the Pope's surprise choice to be Bishop of Down and Connor.
Father Twomey, the former Professor of Moral Theology at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, was a student in Germany under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
A member of the Divine Word Missionaries, Father Twomey has been a controversial public figure in promoting the Pope's anti-secularist agenda, and last year wrote a book praising the German pontif's conservative theology.
The Irish Independent learned last night that Father Twomey's name was not on the official original list of the top three candidates produced by the Papal Nuncio to Ireland.