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Marc Ouellet, Quebec Cardinal, As Next Pope?

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Could Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet become the next pope?

Following the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI the former Archbishop of Quebec has emerged as a real contender for the papacy.

Paddy Power, an Irish betting house in the UK, has tagged Ouellet as among the top three possibilities to replace the pope. The 68-year-old even topped the rankings as the odd-on favourite for a brief time on Monday.

Another British betting house, Ladbrokes, gives him one-to-three odds of getting the job.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who heads the Vatican's justice and peace department, is also in the running, while Nigerian cardinal Francis Arinze, rounds out the top three for both bookies.

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Pope Benedict XVI , born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, had only spent seven years as pontiff before announcing his departure -- becoming the first pope to step down from the post in almost 600 years.

He cited "advanced age" for his decision. Benedict assumed the title at the age of 78.

Ouelett was born on June 8, 1944 near Amos, in northwestern Quebec. According to policymic, he's one of eight children born to a headmaster father and housewife mother.

Ouellet has proven no stranger to controversy in his time with the Church. The Canadian Press characterizes him as a determined opponent to same-sex marriage legislation, even testifying at a 2005 Canadian Senate hearing on the subject.

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At the time, he expressed concern that Bill C-38 would brand people of religion bigots and homophobes.

As the Montreal Gazette reports, Ouellet became head of the Congregation for Bishops in July 2010, the Vatican agency that appoints bishops worldwide.

That appointment sparked speculation that he was in a position to be a serious contender for the papacy.

“I’m surprised to be today in this position,” he told reporters at a Quebec City news conference.

“And I don’t think that I will become a pope someday, I don’t think so."

That same year, he told LeSoleil that the papacy was not something he aspired to.

In the light-hearted interview, Ouellet said becoming pope "would be a nightmare."

Over at Business Insider, Michael Brendan Dougherty weighs the odds, and assesses pros and cons of each possible candidate for the papacy. About Ouellet, he notes:

Last year we said that our money was on Ouellet. His rank among the betters has shot up dramatically.

What His Election Would Mean: It's a global Church now. His work in helping to vet and select bishops would give him the ability as pope to dramatically shape the Church for a generation or more.

Reasons He'll Get Elected: Most qualified. He speaks English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and German fluently. He has done missionary work in South America.

Reasons He Might Not Get Elected: He might decline. (You can decline your election) He has given every indication that papacy is a "crushing responsibility" that he would hesitate to take. Then again, that is exactly what makes him an attractive candidate.

Continue reading here.

More from Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press:

MONTREAL - If a Canadian does become the next pope and spiritual leader to the world's one billion Catholics, the story of his ascension will begin, appropriately enough, with a hockey injury.

The moment of divine inspiration when Marc Cardinal Ouellet decided he should pursue the priesthood came as he nursed a broken leg, sustained during a game.

As the 17-year-old future cardinal rested his aching leg, he had a lot of extra time to think.

"That was the special moment," Ouellet told The Canadian Press in a 2005 interview before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

"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."

Longtime friend Lionel Gendron, a Quebec bishop, said his pal was a good hockey player. He was studying in the province's northwest to be a teacher, and the injury gave him time to think.

"He reflected on the meaning of life," said Gendron, a bishop from the Saint-Jean-Longueuil diocese who first met Ouellet in 1965.

Ouellet, 68, is now being touted as one of the likeliest successors — perhaps even the favourite — to take over from Pope Benedict XVI.

On Monday, Benedict became the first pontiff to step down in 600 years when he declared he would resign Feb. 28, citing a lack of strength to do the job.

A pair of foreign bookmakers have ranked Ouellet, who heads the Vatican's office for bishops, as one of their three likeliest candidates.

One Canadian who will help elect the next pope was reticent Monday when asked about Ouellet's chances.

"I've known Cardinal Ouelette for many, many years," said Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto. "He's a wonderful cardinal... I think it's too early to speculate upon the profile of who should be the next pope."

Collins, Ouellet and retired cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte will travel to Vatican City to participate in conclaves during which ballots will be cast for Benedict's successor.

Ouellet, named a cardinal in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, hails from the tiny Quebec village of La Motte, nearly 500 kilometres northwest of Ottawa. He was named by Pope Benedict in 2010 to head the powerful Congregation for Bishops, which vets bishops nominations worldwide.

One expert in the church described Ouellet's resume as one packed with impressive credentials — including his intellectual abilities, his experience as a bishop and the Roman Catholic Primate of Canada, and the fact that, theologically, he is very astute and orthodox.

His relative youth is another element that could work in his favour, said Douglas Farrow, a professor in McGill University's religious studies department.

But his qualifications don't make him a lock on the papacy, Farrow added. He said the cardinals believe their choice to be divinely inspired, and the process can produce real surprises.

Other experts expressed doubt that the former Archbishop of Quebec City is a contender.

Church historian Benoit Lacroix suggested Ouellet's experience in Quebec City could hardly be described as a success.

He said his lengthy time abroad had left him unprepared for the rapid secularization of Quebec society, and he struggled to deal with it.

"He got there without understanding the evolution of Quebec — that Quebec had changed a lot over 10, 15 years," said Lacroix, a professor at Universite de Montreal.

"Quebec was no longer actively Catholic like it was. He got there with this image from his childhood, I'd say. From that standpoint he was maybe surprised, almost too surprised I believe, with respect to those events."

Ouellet, who speaks several languages, has decades of experience at different levels of the church.

He has advanced degrees in theology and philosophy from two universities in Rome. He served in Colombia, and as rector at the Grand Seminary in Montreal between 1990 and 1994 and of St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton from 1994 to 1997.

In Rome, he was chairman of dogmatic theology at a branch of the Pontifical Lateran University, and from 1995 to 2000 was on the staff of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy.

Ouellet's name was mentioned as long shot in 2005 to succeed John Paul II.

Last year, Ouellet shared his thoughts about whether he had hopes of becoming pope.

"I don't see myself at this level, not at all... because I see how much it entails (in terms of) responsibility,'' he said in response to a question on the subject in an interview with the Catholic news organization Salt + Light TV. The exchange was published online last April.

"On the other hand, I say I believe that the Holy Spirit will help the cardinals do a good choice for the leadership of the church, the Catholic church, in the future.''

Ouellet has been vocal in political debates at home.

Anti-abortion remarks he made in May 2010 solicited angry reactions from a number of politicians and women's rights activists in Quebec.

At the time, Ouellet told media during a pro-life rally in Quebec City that abortion was unjustifiable, even in cases of rape.

In 2005, he testified before a Canadian Senate committee studying legislation on same-sex marriage. He urged lawmakers to block the bill and defended the role of religious people in participating in the debate.

Ouellet said he feared that the adoption of Bill C-38 would inevitably lead to religious people being regarded as bigots and homophobes.

He urged parliamentarians to remember that while Canada's Charter of Rights guarantees equality for all, it also states in its preamble that Canada was founded on principles that include the supremacy of God.

"The state must treat homosexuals with respect and find accommodations that are consistent with their rights, without placing them in a category to which they do not belong, the category of marriage," Ouellet told the 2005 hearing.

His arguments failed to turn the debate. The same-sex marriage legislation, Bill C-38, was approved by the Senate several days later.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Harper said Monday that he was shocked to hear Pope Benedict was renouncing the papacy due to his declining health.

Harper noted that two Canadian saints — Brother Andre Bessette and Kateri Tekakwitha — were canonized during Benedict's papacy. Collins, an archbishop, was elevated to the College of Cardinals.

If some of the predictions ring true when a successor to Benedict is chosen, in the coming weeks, many more tales from Canada will be told at the Vatican.

Ouellet's mother, Graziella Ouellet, told a local newspaper that her son had a knack for bringing home the biggest catches using only small pieces of bread as bait.

"He only had to put his rod in the water and he caught many fish," she told the Echo Abitibien in an July 2010 interview.

Graziella Ouellet said that God guided those fish, because her son often prayed before he headed toward the water.

Gendron agreed that Ouellet, like most young Quebecers at that time, was religious long before his hockey-related revelation led him to shift gears and become a priest.

The cardinal's connection to hockey, meanwhile, has remained intact despite the injury. Gendron said Ouellet still laces up with his nephews when he visits his family in Quebec's Abitibi region.

"Physically, he's in very good shape," Gendron said.

- with files from Magdaline Boutros, Diana Mehta in Toronto and James Keller in Vancouver.LIVE BLOG

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AP reports:

REGENSBURG, Germany — Pope Benedict XVI is planning to stay out of the public eye following his retirement at the end of the month but may stand ready to advise his successor if asked, his brother said Tuesday after talking with the pontiff.

Speaking to reporters at his home in the southern German city of Regensburg, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who was ordained on the same day in 1951 as his brother Joseph, said he didn't expect Benedict's continued presence in the Vatican to intimidate the next pope.

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Keith Thomson writes in a blog post:

Much is at stake with the selection of Pope Benedict XVI's successor, including a lot of money. Paddy Power, Europe's largest bookmaker, has already taken more than £100,000 in bets, and expects to see multi-million-pound action closer to next month's conclave at the Sistine Chapel.

While Las Vegas casinos refuse to accept such bets for reasons of "taste," Paddy Power is one of several major international bookmakers currently offering papal markets, not only on who will be the next pope, but what papal name he'll choose, his country of origin, and the length of the papal conclave, among others.

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A group of topless activists scandalized visitors at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday by disrobing in public to celebrate Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

The small group of women, all affiliated with radical feminist group FEMEN, flashed their breasts and banged on bells in the cathedral, shouting slogans such as, "Bye Bye Benedict" and "No more homophobe," according to the Agence France-Presse.

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HuffPost's Lila Shapiro reports:

Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic nun and co-founder of a U.S. ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics, met Pope Benedict XVI only once, by chance, on a plane flying from Baltimore to Rome in the late-'90s. Because of her work with the lesbian and gay community, Gramick had by then been under investigation by the Vatican for more than two decades.

The encounter was serendipitous, Gramick recalled Monday after hearing news of Benedict's resignation. Gramick and leaders at her ministry had been worried that she would be excommunicated. She was traveling with the head of her order to Munich, via Rome, to pray that she would keep her place in the church. When she boarded the plane, she saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became pope, sitting with two empty seats beside him. She mustered her courage and sat next to him. "When he found out who I was, he just smiled and said 'Oh, I've known about you for 20 years,'" she said.

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vatican nuns pray

Nuns pray inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, stunning the world by announcing his resignation Monday and leaving the already troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its 1 billion followers by Easter. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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Reuters reports:

VATICAN CITY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Cardinals around the world began informal contacts to discuss who should next lead the Church through a period of major crisis and the Vatican said it planned a big send-off for Pope Benedict before he becomes the first pontiff in centuries to resign.

At a Tuesday news conference on how the pope plans to spend the next two weeks before he steps out of the limelight, the Vatican also disclosed that the 85-year-old Benedict has been wearing a pacemaker since before he was elected pope in 2005.

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Yesterday morning the Church and the world learned that Pope Benedict XVI, following an extended period of prayer and reflection, discerned that he would resign the papacy at the end of this month. This news certainly came as a great surprise to all of us. It would be reasonable to consider that the Holy Father's advancing age and the responsibilities of being the leader for more than one billion Catholics, including the demands of extensive international travel, played a central role in his decision. We join the universal Church in offering prayerful gratitude for the Holy Father's faith, courage and his leadership as the successor of Peter.

At this time it is appropriate for the Church and all people of good faith to reflect on Pope Benedict's legacy and achievements. He brought unique capabilities to the papacy as a highly qualified scholar and teacher, and as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in service to Blessed John Paul II. His fidelity to maintaining the truth and clarity of the Catholic faith, to cultivating ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and in reaching out to inspire the next generation of Catholics have been great gifts to us all.

During the course of the past eight years Pope Benedict embraced the papacy with the heart of a kind and caring shepherd, always holding the spiritual and pastoral care of the people of God to be the highest priority. The Holy Father also generously used his superior intellectual gifts, well established through his reputation as a renowned scholar, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church with people from all walks of life throughout the world. He guided the Church through unprecedented challenges, always finding strength in Jesus' promise to be with us always, and led a world-wide renewal of evangelization that will influence the Catholicism for generations to come.

The Archdiocese of Boston in particular has been greatly blessed by Pope Benedict's care and concern.In all of my conversations with him he has always asked me to assure this local Church of his prayers and encouragement. I will always hold the Holy Father's 2008 meeting with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and our presentation of the Book of Names of living and deceased survivors, as one of the most powerful experiences of my life and priesthood.

His overwhelming sorrow that such heinous crimes were perpetrated on the survivors and his heartfelt expression of love and concern were deeply moving, as was his absolute commitment that the abuse never be repeated and that the Church maintain her vigilance to do everything possible to insure the safety of children.

While there will be much speculation in the days and weeks ahead regarding who will follow the Holy Father to the Chair of Peter, at this moment we are called to reflect on Pope Benedict's leadership; offering prayers of gratitude for this servant of Christ who so dearly loves all of God's people. At this extraordinary moment in the life of the Church, we pray for the wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit and the strength given by our Lord, who, assures us that he will be with us always.

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Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, releases a statement:

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Rabbi Burton Visotzky, director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Jewish Theological Seminary, discusses the positive state of Jewish-Catholic relations under Pope Benedict XVI's leadership and his hopes for the future.

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mater ecclesiae monastery

A view of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, right, next to the Tower of San Giovanni, inside the Vatican State where Pope Benedict XVI is expected to live after he resigns, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. For months, construction crews have been renovating a four-story building attached to a monastery on the northern edge of the Vatican gardens where nuns would live for a few years at a time in cloister. Only a handful of Vatican officials knew it would one day be Pope Benedict XVI's retirement home. On Tuesday, construction materials littered the front lawn of the house and plastic tubing snaked down from the top floor to a dump truck as the restoration deadline became ever more critical following Benedict's stunning announcement that he would resign Feb. 28 and live his remaining days in prayer. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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femen protest

Activists of the Women's Movement FEMEN, protest against the Pope Benedict XVI who announced his resignation yesterday, in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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Andreas Widmer writes in a blog post:

The Vatican moves very slowly -- they measure time in centuries, not years. Thus the news from Pope Benedict of his impending resignation during the last stretch of his seventh year as pope struck the public like lightning.

"Shocking! Unbelievable!" was the sentiment that came to mind when I (and I presume you) first learned of Pope Benedict's abdication.

This reaction is a natural initial response -- but there's a lot more to the story. The mainstream discussion about Benedict's decision is a regrettable oversimplification. We don't do justice to this important announcement declaring the pontificate a failure and proceeding to a guessing game of "who's the next pope."

Before we move on, we need to stop and reflect on what just happened -- not just in the past seven years, but the last 70 years. Upon closer examination of the facts, observers will see that this was a strategic decision, and not one done in a moment of weakness or despair.

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Agence France Presse reports:

French President Francois Hollande had his knuckles rapped for it but most of Europe felt free Tuesday to start cracking jokes about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, sometimes with a sharp anti-clerical edge.

The paedophilia scandal that has engulfed the Roman Catholic church in recent years ensured many of the quips flooding the Twittersphere and some of the cartoons published online and in newspapers across the continent had a dark theme.

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st peters square

Media gather in front of St. Peter's Basilica, at The Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, stunning the world by announcing his resignation Monday and leaving the already troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its 1 billion followers by Easter. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

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Kim Daniels, director of Catholic Voices USA writes:

Catholics mark our year with feasts and fasts, times of repentance and times of rejoicing. Our calendar sets the rhythm of Catholic life. Given that, it's no accident that Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, patron saint of the sick.

Those focusing on papal politics miss the real story. With his resignation Pope Benedict -- arguably one of the most powerful people in the world -- has chosen to give up that temporal power to align himself with the sick, the weak, the frail. In doing so he's affirming the central Christian truth that "when I am weak, then I am strong."

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AP reports:

MEXICO CITY -- Latin America is home to the world's largest Roman Catholic population, but hopes that the next pope will come from the region appear faint, experts said Monday.

The predominance of Europeans on the College of Cardinals means that the odds are stacked against a Latin American pope, even though the names of a number of high-ranking churchmen from the region have been bandied about, analysts said. The 118-member college, with 62 European members and only 19 from Latin America, will elect a successor for Pope Benedict XVI, who announced Monday he will resign due to age.

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David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, writes in a blog post:

As the Pope himself admits, he had his flaws and he made mistakes, but he was and is undoubtedly a holy man. He should be remembered above all for that.

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Sheikh Mustafa Ceric, the former grand mufti of Bosnia, releases a statement on behalf A Common Word Initiative and the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute:

The news today about H.H. Pope Benedict XVI's resignation at the end of this month (February 2013) after nearly eight years as the successor of St. Peter and head of the Catholic Church was highly noticed by all the Muslims who had dialogue with him. First as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and then Pope Benedict XVI from 2005 to 2013 after John Paul II's death, he will be remembered as a foremost Catholic theologian and a sincere pastor for the Catholic faithful.

Although initially hurt by his remarks about Islam on September 12, 2006, while lecturing on "Faith, Reason and the University" at the University of Regensburg, Germany, Muslim Scholars appreciated his apology afterwards and his subsequent friendly visits to Islamic countries and mosques, particularly the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

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Religion News Service reports:

Pope Benedict XVI came into office with the reputation of a conservative hard-liner, a vigorous defender of orthodoxy who wanted to restore Tradition -- yes, with a capital "T"_ to a church that was seen as disturbingly undisciplined.

Yet with the stunning announcement that he is resigning as the 264th successor to Saint Peter, Benedict may wind up fundamentally changing the way the church and the world view the papacy.

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Timothy Cardinal Dolan writes in the New York Daily News:

Sede vacante: It’s a Latin phrase, and it means, “the chair is empty.”

On Monday, the 264th successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, announced that, at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, the Chair of St. Peter would be empty.

For the first time in six centuries, a Pope is resigning.

We Catholics cherish symbols. A chair is a symbol, a sign, of authority, unity, wisdom.

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Reuters reports:

Father Federico Lombardi [Vatican spokesman] said the batteries on the appliance were replaced three months ago in a minor, routine intervention but that had played no part in persuading the pontiff to take the shock decision to step down.

"It had no influence on the decision, the reasons were in his perception that his strength had diminished with advancing age," Lombardi told a press briefing at the Vatican.

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After the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI's decision to abdicate as the head of the Catholic Church on Monday, front-page headlines across the world grew a few type sizes. The decision was surprising both for the faithful and for the guides and tour operators of Rome, a deeply tourist-dependent city where the Vatican is arguably the star attraction.

Local tour operators said yesterday that they plan to continue tours as usual, until either massive crowds, which descended during the last papal conclave, or the Vatican's dictates make doing so impossible.

For the rest of the story click here.

-- Andrew Burmon

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HuffPost Italy reports:

Less than three months ago, Pope Benedict XVI had heart surgery in the clinic Pius XI in Rome for the replacement of a pacemaker, "in absolute secrecy." This was reported on the front page of ‘Il Sole 24 Ore’in an article by the newspaper editor, Roberto Napoletano.

"The surgery went well," Napoletano said. "The Pope recovered regularly, he never missed an appointment with the Sunday Angelus, showed his usual serenity and good endurance. He was operated by Louis Chiariello, a heart surgeon who studied in the US and director of The University of Rome Tor Vergata. Chiariello has been treating the pulse and heart rates of the Pope for more than 10 years, since when he placed his first pacemaker."

Dr Chiariello “didn’t wanted to confirm the news,” writes Napoletano.“He entrenched behind a barrier of silence.” According to Il sole 24 Ore, before and after the surgery the Pope did not appear either troubled or extremely tired. He didn’t want to miss the appointment with the believers even on the Sunday immediately after the operation and “smiled on the hidden forces of his heart.”

“People close to him, by the way, saw him simply and firmly questioning about his ability to drive – in full force – the boat of St Peter and to proclaim the Gospel with the same courage and the same commitment demonstrated in recent years."

-- Giulia Belardelli

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Over at Business Insider, Michael Brendan Dougherty weighs the odds, and assesses pros and cons of each possible candidate for the papacy.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

Country: Canada

Position: Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, formerly Archbishop of Quebec.

Age: 68

Likelihood: Paddy Power ranks him 5/2. He has done missionary work in South America. Last year we said that our money was on Ouellet. His rank among the betters has shot up dramatically.

What His Election Would Mean: It's a global Church now. His work in helping to vet and select bishops would give him the ability as pope to dramatically shape the Church for a generation or more.

Reasons He'll Get Elected: Most qualified. He speaks English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and German fluently. He has done missionary work in South America.

Reasons He Might Not Get Elected: He might decline. (You can decline your election) He has given every indication that papacy is a "crushing responsibility" that he would hesitate to take. Then again, that is exactly what makes him an attractive candidate.

Continue reading here.

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The Sydney Morning Herald's Ruth Pollard reports:

He is viewed as the Pope who helped improve relations between the Vatican and Israel, while also providing open support for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

As the news of Pope Benedict's retirement spread, Palestinian Catholics expressed their shock at his decision and their fears that it may reduce the authority of the church and the next Pope.

“We want the representative of the Holy See to be supportive of the marginalised, of the downtrodden and in this case, the Palestinians who are living under a brutal Israeli occupation,” said Zoughbi Zoughbi, the director of the Wi'am Palestinian Centre for Conflict Resolution.

“Anyone who comes into this position [of pope] has the responsibility of correcting injustices in all four corners of the world,” Mr Zoughbi said as he sat with friends in a café in Bethlehem.

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Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, released the following statement on the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI:

It was with a heavy heart but complete understanding that we learned this morning of Pope Benedict’s declaration of his decision to lay down the burden of ministry as Bishop of Rome, an office which he has held with great dignity, insight and courage. As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ. He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity.

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@ nwarikoo : Imam Qazwini, who heads the biggest mosque in Michigan, met with Pope Benedict XVI twice. He said: "I have so much admiration for the Pope."

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His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew released the following statement on Pope Benedict's abdication:

It is with regret that we have learned of the decision by His Holiness Pope Benedict to retire from his Throne, because with his wisdom and experience he could have provided much more to the Church and the world.

Pope Benedict leaves an indelible mark on the life and history of the Roman Catholic Church, sealed not only by his brief papacy, but also by his broad and longstanding contribution as a theologian and hierarch of his Church, as well as his universally acknowledged prestige.

His writings will long speak of his deep theological understanding, through his knowledge of the Fathers of the undivided Church, his familiarity with contemporary reality, and his keen interest in the problems of humankind.

Continue reading here.

h/t @nunblogger

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Rabbi Brad Hirschfield writes at The Washington Post:

Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation, effective the end of February, and there are many ways to think about the significance of the event, including both the challenges and the opportunities in Catholic-Jewish relations that may come in the decision’s wake.

While some Jewish leaders have been troubled over the years by certain comments and actions by the outgoing pontiff, upon close examination, I think we see that there has been little if anything to be disturbed by, and much for which to be quite pleased. In fact, in his relationship to issues relating to Jews and Judaism, Pope Benedict has been, as he has been in regard to so many other matters, a fascinating figure -- deeply principled and highly intellectual, if sometimes frustrating in his seeming to be less than fully aware of the full emotional and public relations implications of some of his words and deeds.

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From the Associated Press:

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