03/13/2013 04:57 EDT | Updated 05/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Marc Ouellet's Family Relieved Quebec Cardinal Isn't Pope

LA MOTTE, Que. - The family of a Canadian cardinal many believed could be pope was relieved Wednesday when it didn't come to be.

Siblings of Cardinal Marc Ouellet huddled around their 90-year-old mother in front of a TV on Wednesday to learn the identity of the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

They were glad it wasn't the hockey-loving outdoorsman they watched grow up in this tiny community in Quebec's northwest.

Before the conclave, Ouellet's family said they feared they would never see him again if he became pontiff to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

"We went through so many different feelings in the last few days — that it was like a relief," Ouellet's older brother Louis told reporters Wednesday inside the old church in La Motte, a town of 439 people.

"We had mixed feelings so when we learned of the new pope we just cooled down and my mother, she smiled and she said, 'Well, I am keeping my son, in a way.' "

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Marc Ouellet was immediately considered a serious contender to inherit St. Peter's throne after former Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation last month.

He was named a bishop by former Pope John Paul II in 2001, archbishop of Quebec City in 2002 and a cardinal in 2003. In 2010, Benedict made him head of the powerful Congregation for Bishops, which vets bishops' nominations worldwide.

His presumed front-runner status put his hometown under the media microscope and took his family members along with it.

Ouellet's brothers, Louis and Roch, spoke to dozens of journalists in recent weeks, many of whom descended on the farming community, which is some 600 kilometre northwest of Montreal.

"We sensed that it could happen one day, but not to this extent — definitely not to this extent," said Roch Ouellet, the younger brother of the cardinal who was seen in 2005 as a long-shot contender for the papacy.

"There can be some disappointment, but it's a brief disappointment... Listen, we knew that we were going to lose a brother."

He said their biggest focus amid the media frenzy was the well-being of their mother, Graziella.

As they waited anxiously Wednesday for the introduction of the new pope, he said their smiling mom appeared to be the calmest person in their house. Roch said Graziella was proud of the cardinal, the third-eldest in the Ouellet brood of six boys and two girls.

In the minutes before the name of the new pope was unveiled, hearts were also beating in the basement of La Motte's St-Luc church. The area had been converted into a media room to accommodate some 50 journalists who flooded a town with only one business, a general store.

About a dozen residents from La Motte and a few neighbouring communities came into the media room to watch the result alongside journalists. Most stared at the screens silently while awaiting the result.

"We just lived through something really emotional," said La Motte resident and devoted Catholic Rita Larouche, who's known Marc Ouellet since 1956.

"We're still very proud of him."

Marthe Beliveau said she was pleased with the result for Graziella, whom she described as very concerned heading into the papal selection.

"We're not happy, but we are happy," said the La Motte resident, who spoke to Ouellet's mother about 10 days earlier.

"We're disappointed because we would have liked it — it would have revitalized the parish a little bit."

Many in the peaceful municipality feared the overnight transformation to becoming the birthplace of a pope would shatter the tranquility that lured them there in the first place.

Others, however, were eager to roll out a welcome mat for the potential influx of tourists — and their wallets.

The mayor of La Motte told reporters he was proud, disappointed and relieved following the conclave — all at the same time.

"(We're) disappointed because Mr. Ouellet was not chosen, but relieved because we're moving on and we'll know what our future holds," Mayor Rene Martineau said.

Martineau even looked several years down the road at the possibility Ouellet's name could re-emerge as a candidate for the papacy one more time. Martineau noted that freshly appointed Pope Francis is 76 years old and Ouellet is just 68.

He underlined the experience his town, which has just two full-time employees, accumulated while navigating a wave of national and international media attention.

"There's a probability that in 10 years we will restart this scenario, but we're not afraid — we're ready," said Martineau.

The Ouellet family, however, said they weren't immediately ready to re-live the intense media scrutiny they felt over the last few weeks.

One painful family story about Ouellet's brother Paul resurfaced after the cardinal was named a contender.

Paul Ouellet was convicted a few years ago of sexual assault involving two minors, stemming from incidents in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Roch Ouellet was asked Wednesday whether his brother's criminal past may have tarnished the Quebec cardinal's candidacy to lead a church that has been overwhelmed by scandal linked to sexual abuse by priests.

He delivered a sharp response to the reporter: "Let's move on to another question please."

Louis Ouellet made a point of mentioning the pressure the family felt in the opening statement they had prepared to open the news conference.

"It is with great joy that we will welcome our brother back this summer to spend time with the family in peace and tranquility, far from the media," he said, reading the statement in front of a line of national TV news cameras.

Later in the news conference, he added: "We saw our brother twice a year and we love our brother, so we will see him again."