By Jay Levine

(CBS) — Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George is applauding word out of the Vatican that the conclave to elect the new pope may be moved up.

When Pope Benedict said he was stepping down, the cardinal said he saw no need to wait the customary 15 days, which included a nine-day mourning period. Now, the Vatican seems to be coming around to his point of view.

Word broke that he would be sequestered with all the world’s cardinals under one roof, an unusual development.

“That would move the conversation along,” George told CBS 2’s Jay Levine as the cardinal made an appearance at Loyola University.

Chances for an American pope are greater than ever before because the perception is the U.S. doesn’t hold as much influence in the world.

“There are other nations that are almost as important as we are. In the international sphere, we don’t play the role we once did,” George said. “That does open up possibilities for an American pope.”

He sees at least two American contenders moving up: Cardinal O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Dolan of New York.

Eager to cast his vote, George is leaving for Rome next Tuesday. And he’ll be in higher spirits than he expected. His doctors this week gave him a surprise clean bill of health after taking his final post-chemotherapy tests.

“They didn’t find evidence of cancerous activity where they thought they would. So, it’s very good,” George said.

The cardinal will undergo routine examinations every three months, just to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

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