Cardinal Marc Ouellet
Credits: FILE PHOTO
MONTREAL - News of Pope Benedict's surprise retirement rekindled speculation that high-ranking Canadian Marc Cardinal Ouellet could be named the first-ever pope from the Western Hemisphere.
Ouellet, 68, is prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, the body that appoints bishops around the world.
The former archbishop of Quebec City is a powerful Vatican player and has been seen as a potential pontiff for years.
Bookmakers wasted no time Monday in setting the Canadian's odds of replacing Benedict.
Gibraltar-based Ladbrokes had Ouellet in second place with 3-to-1 odds, behind Peter Cardinal Turkson of Ghana.
The National Catholic Reporter had previously listed Ouellet as one of the top three pontiffs-in-waiting. The American publication cited the Canadian's solid theological knowledge and the fact that he's fluent in several languages.
Benedict's impending resignation sent a buzz across the pond, particularly in Quebec City where Ouellet served as archbishop from 2003 to 2010.
Mayor Regis Labeaume joked that the Vatican could move to the provincial capital if Ouellet ascends to the top post.
Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Ouellet's successor as Quebec City archbishop, was more muted in his comments Monday.
He noted that it's up to the conclave of cardinals to choose Benedict's successor and that prayer - not campaigning - guides the process.
"As we say, he who enters the conclave as a (would-be) pope leaves it as a cardinal," Lacroix told a news conference.
In a 2011 interview with QMI Agency, Ouellet recoiled at the thought of ascending to the leadership of the world's billion Catholics.
"Oh, my God, it would be a nightmare," he said. "You can't stop the world from dreaming. It's perhaps not very enviable, it's an overwhelming responsibility."
Marc Ouellet Factbox
Born: June 8, 1944, in La Motte, Que. in the Abitibi region across from northern Ontario
Education: B.A. in education, Laval University, 1964. Theology degree, Grand Seminaire de Montreal, 1968. License in Philosophy, St. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical University (Rome), 1974.
Work Experience: Priest in home region of Abitibi, 1968-70. Worked in Colombia from 1970-76 and 1984-89. Named a bishop in 2001. Archbishop of Quebec City, 2003-2010.
Key Vatican appointments: Head of Congregation of Bishops; Member, Sacred College of Cardinals; Secretary, Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity; Member, Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses; Member, Pontifical Academy of Theology; Member, Congregation for Catholic Education; Member Pontifical Council of Cardinals.