If the Lord works in mysterious ways, perhaps it was divine intervention that cracked the ice where Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet broke his leg all those years ago.
Considered a strong candidate to become the next pope, Ouellet’s unfortunate accident derailed his hockey career, but sent him into the priesthood where he now occupies one of the most important roles at the Vatican as the man in charge of bishops.
“We need someone who can spread the word of Christ. This cardinal is such a man,” Vatican administrator Mario Galgano told Canada.com.
“He not only speaks good Italian, but his message is very clear. He is exactly the kind of man the church needs.”
It wasn’t always a career in the priesthood for Ouellet, 68, who was born in a remote Quebec village called La Motte hours northwest of Montreal.
Like all boys his age, he played hockey on the outdoor rinks and was considered a big, strong player with good hands.
At 17, however, he caught his skate in a rut and broke his leg. It was during his convalescence he chose to enter the priesthood.
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“There was a crack in the ice and his skate got caught in the crack and the force was too strong; he broke his leg,” Ouellet’s brother, Roch, told The Canadian Press.
He's still a fan of the Montreal Canadiens.
“He probably could’ve had a very good career (as a player) because of his size. He was very good on skates, very deft,” added teammate Yvan Boucher.
Ouellet’s mastery of Italian and work in Colombia have endeared him to Catholics from around the world, although not so much in his home country of Canada, according to AFP.
He was criticized in liberal Quebec for railing against abortion and gay marriage.
Conclave begins on Tuesday, and the process to choose 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI’s successor begins.
Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola is considered a likely replacement after Benedict’s shocking resignation.
The next Vicar of Christ will need two-thirds support from 115 “cardinal electors” to become leader of the Catholic Church.
“I have to be ready even if I think that probably others could do it better,” Ouellet said during interviews prior to conclave. “I will cross the river when I get to the bridge, and we are not there.”
Video of the Canadian Cardinal’s hockey playing past can be seen here.
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