Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a mainstream conservative churchman who once said becoming pope "would be a nightmare", is now widely seen as the North American candidate for the job, reports AAP in The Daily Telegraph.
Ouellet, 68, an insider with strong connections to the church administrative apparatus, the Curia, is a frontrunner to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who has announced his resignation and triggered the hunt for a replacement.
British and Irish online bookmakers place his chances just behind those of Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana and the archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, who was made a cardinal last year at age 54 at Ouellet's urging.
He has faced strong criticism in his native Quebec for promoting the Catholic Church's traditional positions on gay marriage, abortion and other hot-button issues, but few think this will hurt him with his peers in Rome.
And if any of the cardinals who will meet in conclave to elect a new pontiff are seeking continuity, Ouellet was a trusted and orthodox advisor to outgoing the Benedict XVI candidate with a very similar vision.
Branded the "Iron Cardinal" by Canadian media for his buttoned-down views, Ouellet could widen a rift between conservatives and reformists, according to Gilles Routhier, head of Laval University's theology faculty in Quebec City.
Born one of eight children to a school headmaster and his wife on June 8, 1944, in La Motte, Quebec, Ouellet studied philosophy and theology before being ordained a priest in May 1968 in his home parish.
FULL STORY Canadian Papal contender Marc Ouellet (Daily Telegraph)