OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, one of the leading candidates to succeed Pope Benedict, suggested in an interview broadcast on Monday that other candidates for pope might do a better job.
He also said it would not be surprising for the pope to come from outside Europe after that continent’s long dominance of the papacy.
“There was a focus on Europe obviously for centuries, and centuries, and ... someday it is to be expected that a pope would come from Asia, would come from Africa, would come from America,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“Nowadays it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
Ouellet, 68, is one of a handful cardinals seen as papal material, but he played down his qualifications. “I have to be ready even if I think that probably others could do it better,” he said.
Ouellet, who now works in the Vatican, served as archbishop of Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec from 2002 to 2010, a fractious time where uncompromising positions from the Vatican often ran counter to the widespread secularism in Quebec.
Pope Benedict subsequently named him to the influential position of prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, which recommends the appointment of bishops to the pope.
In a separate interview with the French-language CBC, Ouellet recognized that his name does come up as a possible replacement for Benedict, who stepped down on March 1.
“I can’t not think about the possibility. Reasonably, when I go into the conclave of cardinals, I have to say to myself, ‘What if, what if...’ It makes me reflect, it makes me pray, it makes me somewhat afraid. I am very conscious of the weight of the task,” he said.
“So you have to be ready for any outcome, but I think a certain number of people have more chance of being elected than me.”
Ouellet said he recognized that the church and the next pope needed to take advantage of social media. Benedict started tweeting in December, as @pontifex. Ouellet said he has been busy, but knows he needs to start tweeting.
Ouellet, who once said becoming pope “would be a nightmare”, faced controversy in Quebec in 2010, months before being brought over to the Vatican, when he restated the Church’s position that abortion is wrong even in the case of rape.
That remark drew condemnation from Quebec politicians, and one newspaper columnist wrote that he hoped the clergyman would die a long and painful death.
As he left Quebec, he said “the message of truth is not always welcome,” but he also asked forgiveness for any harm he may have brought to people.
A Canadian journalist who interviewed Ouellet several times described him as a cross between John Paul II and Benedict, more reserved than the former but more photogenic than the latter. But even his friends say he is not charismatic.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Peter Galloway and Eric Walsh