Canadian cardinal creeps quietly onto lists of ’papabili’

By Cincy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While pundits and cardinals themselves discounted any chance of a U.S. cardinal emerging as the 265th pontiff, a Canadian cardinal crept quietly onto the lists of "papabili."


Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a polyglot academic who briefly served as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, started showing up on Italian newspapers' top-12 list three days before the April 18 conclave.

The newspaper Il Messaggero first referred to the 60-year-old as "the wild card" in the cardinals' deck, but the day the conclave opened it highlighted the Canadian's language skills, theological background and "fervent" Marian devotion.

"He is close to the positions of (Cardinals Joseph) Ratzinger and (Camillo) Ruini and a disciple of (Father Hans Urs) von Balthasar. Someone has sworn that he could be the 'surprise' of the conclave," Il Messaggero wrote.

"Very young with a peaceful countenance, he is considered one of the 'papabili,'" the newspaper said in a separate story in the same opening-day edition.

And in a third story, more analytical, the paper's chief Vatican reporter, Orazio Petrosillo, said that if the cardinals could not agree on an Italian pope they "could be forced to make a sensational leap across the ocean to the Americas," choosing either Cardinal Ouellet or one of four Latin Americans.

Even though he is not Italian, Cardinal Ouellet is no stranger to Rome and, more importantly, he can speak the language.

After studying in Rome, he returned to the city to teach in 1996 and a year later was appointed chair of dogmatic theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

In 2001, he was named a bishop and appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He also served on the Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.

The Italian dailies La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera mentioned Cardinal Ouellet as being "the only North American" in the running.

The Corriere del Ticino daily April 17 called Cardinal Ouellet "the strong last-minute candidate."


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