VATICAN CITY – Cardinal Marc Ouellet says he is "just trying to live . . . day after day in obedience to God and his word," fulfilling his duties and leaving the next day to God.
All of the cardinals, Ouellet said in a March 4 CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge, have to be ready to take on the role as leader of the Church.
When asked if he considered himself a possible contender for pope, Ouellet said "We have to be, to some extent, prepared." But he noted that as far as thinking about it personally, he would "cross the river when I get to the bridge, and we are not there."
Ouellet, who heads the Congregation for Bishops, noted that there had been a focus on European popes for centuries but that today it would not be a surprise for a pope to come from Asia, Africa or America.
"This discernment (of who will be pope) will be quite unexpected," he added, which has always "been the case in a way." The cardinals did not "expect the election of John XXIII, and we did not expect the election of (Cardinal) Ratzinger."
Ouellet said even though his name might be circulating in the media as a possible papal contender he is "very careful to go beyond this sort of media expectations."
But his caution has not stopped the media from descending upon his home village of La Motte, just north of Quebec.
The town of 439 people has no restaurant or motel. The basement of his home parish, St. Luke's, has been transformed into a media centre.
Reporters have been interviewing his 91-year old mother, Graziella Ouellet, whom the cardinal calls every week.
When a CBC reporter showed the cardinal a video clip of an interview with his mother, saying she prays for her son every day, the cardinal said he tells her not to think about the possibility of him becoming pope but just to continue to pray and "wait for God's will on the life of the Church."
In response to a question about the Church's response to the sex abuse scandal, Ouellet said: "We have learned from our mistakes," stressing the need to "listen carefully to victims" and focus first on them.
The cardinal, who has spoken out about evils of clerical sex abuse, was among a group of bishops who led a penitential vigil in Rome last year asking for forgiveness for failing to protect children and serving instead as an "instrument of evil against them" when Catholic officials shielded perpetrators from justice.
He also noted that the issue of abuse is not just a "Catholic problem; it is a human problem" and hopes that efforts to combat it by the Catholic Church, although not perfect, "could be also of example for others in society."