The College of Cardinals began meeting this week to set the stage for the selection of a new pope, a high-stakes campaign that already features a healthy dose of Canadian humility.
Quebec's Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who is considered in some circles as a leading contender to ascend to the head of the Catholic church, told CBC News he was prepared to sit as pope should he be selected by the conclave.
"I have to be ready even if I think that probably others could do it better," a humble Ouelett said in an interview. He added with a chuckle that those who enter the conclave thinking they will become pope tend to remain as a cardinal.
The comments were made as part of an exclusive interview with CBC's chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, which will air on The National on Monday and Tuesday.
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Ouellet was thrown into the spotlight last month when Pope Benedict XVI announced his surprising resignation. The Canadian was listed as one of the prime candidates to be named as a replacement. Ouellet says he tries not to listen to media speculation about what the College of Cardinals will decide.
Traditionally, the selection of a new pope is made by the more than 100 cardinals under the age of 80. They enter the Sistine Chapel for a conclave and do not come out until one of them has been chosen to lead the Catholic Church.
Ouellet will participate in his second conclave, after being a part of the 2005 process that selected German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to become Pope Benedict XVI.
Two other Canadian cardinals, Toronto's Thomas Collins and Montreal's Jean-Claude Turcotte, will also be among the approximately 115 cardinals that will participate in the conclave.
“I’m overwhelmed by the majesty of the occasion,” Collins told CBC News.
“People have been coming up to me and saying, ‘We’re praying for you, we’re praying for all the cardinals.' So you get a great sense of lift, of support. We know the whole church is praying for all of us.”
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Much has been made about Ouellet's chances. Still, it would be the first time a cardinal from outside of Europe was elevated to the position of pope, so he doesn't exactly have history on his side.
Not only that, but a series of damning revelations has come out since Benedict’s resignation which will make the next pope’s task an even more difficult one.
No date has yet been set for the fateful conclave, but until we hear otherwise, Ouellet remains an attractive candidate to be named the next pope. Whether he really is cool to the idea, or is simple showcasing some Canadian humility, is yet to be seen.