For a while, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet was considered one of the front-runners to replace Pope Benedict XVI after the pontiff announced his surprise resignation.
In recent weeks, as the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church gathered before this week’s conclave to choose Saint Peter’s successor, Ouellet’s odds have fallen. Irish betting house Paddypower.com has pegged his chances at 10/1, while giving best odds to Cardinals Angelo Scola of Italy and Peter Turkson of Ghana.
As L. Ian MacDonald notes on a piece about Ouellet’s diminished chances, there’s a saying in Rome that he who enters conclave as pope leaves as a cardinal.
Still, we won’t know for sure until the white puff of smoke signals the election of the new pope. Until then, anything is possible for Cardinal Ouellet. Here are 13 things you may not know about Canada’s papal contender.
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1. Cardinal Marc Ouellet was born on June 8, 1944, in the Quebec town of La Motte. He was the third of eight children (six boys and two girls) and ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Amos on May 25, 1968.
2. As a child, Ouellet nearly burned down a barn while playing with matches.
3. At 17, after injuring his leg while playing hockey, Ouellet found inspiration in the story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She was a French Carmelite nun known as "The Little Flower of Jesus" who died in 1897, at the age of 24, of tuberculosis.
4. Most of his siblings aren’t practising Catholics and two of his sisters are divorced.
5. Ouellet spent 11 years in Colombia as a missionary and teacher at seminaries in Bogota, Manizales, and Cali.
6. Ouellet speaks six languages: French, English, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
7. In 2007, in a letter published in Quebec newspapers, Ouellet apologized for past errors of the Church in Quebec, including "anti-Semitism, racism, indifference to First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals."
8. Ouellet’s brother, Paul, was convicted in 2009 of sexual assault involving two underage girls in the 1980s and early 1990s. Paul Ouellet took out newspaper ads to explain the assaults, The National Post reports.
9. In May 2010, at a pro-life rally, Cardinal Ouellet called abortion a moral crime, even after rape. He was lambasted by critics who complained that he was out of touch with Quebec society. Quebec’s association of bishops distanced itself from him and issued a statement calling for a rational discussion, The Globe and Mail reports.
10. From 2002 to 2010, Ouellet was the Archbishop of Quebec City and Primate of Canada.
11. In 2011, Ouellet said that being Pope "would be a nightmare," citing the "crushing responsibility" of the office and the workload of Pope Benedict XVI.
12. The Times of London reports that Ouellet brokered the recent resignation of U.K. Cardinal Keith O’Brien after priests reportedly came forward to him with allegations the senior cleric had made sexual advances.
13. Stephen Colbert recently dismissed the idea of Ouellet as the next pope on his hit comedy show The Colbert Report, suggesting that the cardinal’s fatal flaw was that he’s Canadian. “The pope cannot be polite,” Colbert quipped. “ 'Sorry, but I think God might not want you to use a condom, eh.' ”