Could the next Pope be Canadian? Bookmakers think so, and Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet is an odds-on favourite. Here are 10 facts you need to know about the man who could be next in line to lead the Catholic Church’s 1.2 billion adherents worldwide.
1. He Was Born in Quebec to a Large Family
Marc Ouellet was born in 1944 in La Motte, Quebec, in the province’s western Abitibi region. He has five brothers and two sisters and still visits the family home where he was raised for Christmas and summer holidays. He currently resides in the Vatican.
2. He Discovered His Calling as a Teenager, After Injuring Himself in a Hockey Match
According to an interview he gave to The Canadian Press in 2005, Ouellet found his calling to the priesthood while nursing a broken leg, sustained during a hockey game. Home-ridden and unable to do much of anything, the 17-year-old Ouellet picked up a book about Saint-Thérèse of Lisieux and found himself questioning the deeper meaning of life.
I lost my season, but I was stopped. I was very much active — over active, hyperactive — and suddenly I started to pray and to read a little more spiritual things because I was unable to play. It was decisive for my vocation.
3. He Was Ordained at 22
The now 68-year-old cardinal began his religious studies at the Grand Seminaire de Montréal and later at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he received his PhD. He quickly rose through the ranks of the church, with postings in Quebec. Colombia and Rome, before being named in 2001 by John Paul II as archbishop of Quebec. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to his current position in 2010.
4. He Speaks 6 Languages
A polyglot, Ouellet is known to speak at least six different languages, including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German. In his younger days he spent time working as a priest in Colombia and other parts of South America.
5. He Publicly Apologized in 2007 On Behalf of Catholic Priests for Sexual Abuse and Discrimination
In an open letter written to Catholics published in French in Quebec newspapers and on the website of the Archdiocese of Quebec, Ouellet apologized for the historical attitudes of some Catholics that he said promoted “discrimination against women and homosexuals.” He wrote that:
The narrow attitudes of some Catholics, before 1960, have promoted Anti-Semitism, racism and indifference to the First Nations.
6. Despite His Apology, He Believes the Catholic Church Has Become Too Liberal
Like Pope Benedict XVI, Ouellet has said he believes that some Catholics have interpreted the teachings of the Second Vatican Council too liberally, and by doing so disconnected from the core of the faith. He blamed the infusion of leftist policies for priests abandoning celibacy and a drop in proper religious education.
— CatholicBishops (@CatholicBishops) June 7, 2012
7. He Has Controversial Views on Abortion
Calling abortion a “moral crime”, Ouellet drew fire in 2010 for saying that abortion is unjustified, even in cases of rape. He also praised Canada’s Prime Minister Harper for his government’s stance against funding abortion in the developing world.
National Post defends Cardinal Marc Ouellet over abortion remarks: http://bit.ly/bqyBfH
— The Catholic Herald (@catholicherald) May 19, 2010
8. He Believes the Catholic Church is Under Attack in Quebec
Ouellet has commented that the church has been under fire in the province since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, a time when many Quebecers revolted against its influence on politics and social affairs. He also created controversy in Quebec City when he banned the practice of general absolution — a type of mass-forgiveness ceremony popular with priests that allowed Catholics to avoid the discomfort of confession.
9. He Once Said That Being Named Pope Would Be “A Nightmare”
In an interview in French in 2011 with La Presse, Ouellet was asked what he thought of his name being floated as pope. He said it would be a nightmare, and added:
I see the work the pope has to do. It is a huge responsibility. Nobody campaigns for it.
10. Stephen Colbert is Not a Fan
On February 11, shortly after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, comedian Stephen Colbert mentioned Ouellet on The Colbert Report.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet is also a contender, with only one major weakness: he is Canadian. The Pope cannot be polite. Sorry, but I think God might not want you to use a condom, eh. It won’t work.
Can’t believe the pope quit. It’s like that old saying goes: “Does the pope quit in the woods?” I’m pretty sure I got that right.
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) February 12, 2013