(by Ugo Caltagirone). New York, March 15 - Cardinal Timothy Dolan may not have been elected pope this week in Rome, but he emerged from conclave with a much higher status among Catholics and their leadership from around the world. According to The Wall Street Journal newspaper, based in the United States, Dolan - who is the Archbishop of New York - was a major winner at the Vatican this week, attaining something close to "rock star" status. That's because Dolan was seen as a serious contender to become pontiff among the 115 cardinals who on Wednesday ultimately decided to elect Pope Francis I of Argentina. The soft-spoken Pope Francis was elected roughly 24 hours after the first voting sessions closed Tuesday - a quick turnaround in an election where no clear front-runner had emerged heading into balloting. It took only five scrutinies, or ballots, to reach a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes, among the 115 cardinal-electors inside the Sistine Chapel during the conclave. Francis had been a strong contender in 2005, coming in second when cardinals ultimately elected Benedict XVI, according to some Vatican watchers. Among the cardinals who gathered in Rome in recent weeks to choose their new leader, following the surprise retirement on February 28 of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Dolan stood out with a very high profile, the newspaper said in a report published Thursday. But it also warned that Dolan is going to need all of his diplomatic and managerial skills to navigate escalating challenges facing the New York archdiocese. Still, Dolan's unexpected rise to become a serious papal candidate "gives him a kind of boost that is quite remarkable," Terrence Tilley, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University in New York, told the Journal. "He becomes more of an influential person, a kingmaker in clerical and Vatican circles". Although some cardinals reportedly sniffed at Dolan's informal style, he received positive coverage in the Italian press, he gave friendly interviews to media outlets such CNN, and was mobbed when he appeared in a local parish before the conclave began this week. Dolan has said he wants to re-brand the Catholic faith as a joyful experience that can appeal to a new generation, the newspaper reported. It added that his managerial skills were on display when, even as he prepared for conclave in Rome, he was still in close contact with lobbyists and strategists in New York in order to stay on top of major political developments involving the Church there. Indeed, in the U.S. Dolan still faces numerous organizational, political, and legal challenges, including questions over how he handled the priest sexual abuse scandal while archbishop of Milwaukee, the Journal reports. "He's not going to be coming home to rest on his laurels," Terry Golway, director of the Kean University Center for history, politics and policy, in Union, N.J, told the newspaper. "The church in New York has some very difficult decisions ahead of it in terms of closing parishes and closing schools and dealing with the ever-changing demographics of New York. That requires hard decision-making and prayer and reflection, and not just an ebullient personality". Since 2011, Dolan's archdiocese has closed 54 Catholic schools as part of a plan to overhaul its educational system, including new taxes on parishes and shifting authority to new regional boards. By contrast, 37 schools were closed between 2000 and 2009 under Cardinal Edward Egan. Dolan also faces new legislative battles after he failed to defeat a bill that legalized gay marriage in New York state. He has also been dogged by questions over how he handled sexual abuse cases involving priests when Dolan lead the archdiocese of Milwaukee between 2002 and 2009. According to the Journal, with his new-found influence, Dolan has the opportunity to shape the Church's response to a broad range of issues, including a shortage of priests and dwindling attendance. "Fame is power and with this raised public profile, I think that gets him a place at the table," concluded Golway.