New pontiff will not be chosen 'on grounds of ethnicity or age'
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
Caption: Cardinal Ouellet was a special guest at the 100th anniversary celebration of the archdiocese in 2008. With him are Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, (left) and former Archbishop Raymond Roussin, SM. (Craig Hodges / Special to The B.C. Catholic)
OTTAWA -- Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec, an auxiliary bishop of Quebec before succeeding Cardinal Marc Ouellet, told journalists he was not surprised to see Cardinal Ouellet's name mentioned as a successor to Pope Benedict XVI because he has been a close collaborator of the Pope.
Cardinal Ouellet's picture has graced the covers of newspapers and magazines in Canada and elsewhere; his name appears in the top three of most Vatican-watchers' lists of "papabile"; and even the odds-makers rank him at or near the top.
Cardinal Ouellet also enjoyed a close relationship with Pope John Paul II, who appointed him to the Council of Christian Unity and ordained him a bishop in 2001. In 2002 he made him Archbishop of Quebec, and the next year, a cardinal.
Pope Benedict called Cardinal Ouellet to Rome in 2010 to head the Congregation for Bishops, that helps the Pope determine the best candidates for bishop.
Archbishop Lacroix pointed out the Pope also sent Cardinal Ouellet on a "delicate mission to Ireland" as the Pope's representative at last year's Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, when the Church in that country was at the height of a clerical sexual abuse scandal.
However Archbishop Lacroix noted, "There are many other wonderful men in the Church, be they cardinals or not."
Cardinal Ouellet has beautiful spiritual qualities, deep spiritual convictions, Archbishop Lacroix said, noting his facility with languages and his knowledge of the Church from time spent in the Roman Curia, in South America, and several parts of Canada. He is "well-known throughout the world," he said.
Cardinal Ouellet is perhaps the strongest candidate among the three Canadian cardinals, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, of Ottawa told journalists, but he also praised the abilities of Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, who he said would make "a strong candidate," and retired Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal.
He noted, however, Cardinal Turcotte was unwell when he resigned as archbishop.
"It's never wise to speculate," said Saint Paul University theologian Catherine Clifford. "There's a saying that whoever goes into the conclave a Pope comes out a cardinal."
"My suspicion is that if the conclave is going to look outside Europe it would actually look more to the south than to Canada," she said: to Africa or Latin America.
Clifford said the conclave might choose someone like Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who now heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Africa represents the fastest-growing community of Catholics in the world, she said, while Latin America has the largest Catholic community.
"The Pope is not chosen on grounds of ethnicity or even age, for that matter," said McGill historian John Zucchi.
"The Holy Spirit really does guide the cardinals when they're holed up in the Vatican. There's a special moment of grace that goes beyond the mere choosing of categories or on a political basis."
Would Cardinal Ouellet want the job? He told a journalist from Quebec's Le Soleil in 2011 he would view the papacy as a nightmare, an unenviable crushing responsibility.
Archbishop Prendergast pointed out that any cardinal, if elected Pope, is asked whether he accepts the papacy, and is completely free to say yes or no.