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Trinity woman may be first female cardinal

An Irish woman is being tipped to become the Catholic church's first female cardinal.

Linda Hogan (49), vice-provost of Trinity College Dublin is one of the favourites for the appointment, with former President Mary McAleese also said to be in the running.

The appointment would be the first woman to have a vote in electing a new Pope.

Prof Hogan, who is professor of Ecumenics at TCD, has not commented on the speculation. A graduate of St Patrick's College Maynooth in 1993 she has published work on gender, ethics and religion.

The Callan, Co Kilkenny native is married and regarded as a liberal feminist who has been critical of the church's stance on homosexuality.

Her name was first mentioned for the new position by Fr James Keenan, a New York Jesuit attached to Boston College, on his Facebook page.

Pope Francis has said that he wants women to have a stronger presence in the church. The conclave that elected him last February was criticised for the absence of women – other than to serve meals to the cardinals.

Catholic church sources say that despite the ban on women priests there is no ban on women being appointed cardinals and they do not have to be ordained.

Dublin-based theologian Gina Menzies said of Prof Hogan "she's a fine theologian and very academically bright. She's been quite radical.

"One of her strong beliefs is something Francis has been hinting – that the basis of moral theology starts from human experience."