Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who is considered by some to be a leading contender for the Vatican's top post, says he knows he must be ready to become the next pope as cardinals prepare to select Benedict's successor.

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From his personal residence at the Vatican, Ouellet spoke with CBC's Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge about the possibility of becoming the next pope and first non-European to ever hold the position.

"I have to be ready even if I think that probably others could do it better," Ouellet said when asked if he wants to become the next pope.

"My name is circulating, but I am very careful to go beyond this sort of media expectations," he said.

The interview airs on The National on Monday March 4 and Tuesday March 5 at 10 p.m. ET/10:30 p.m. NT on CBC-TV. It airs on CBC News Network at 9 p.m. ET/11 p.m. PT on both dates.

The selection of a Canadian as pontiff would be unprecedented. A non-European cardinal has never been chosen to lead the church. The conclave is expected to begin in mid-March — with a date to be announced soon.

Ouellet, considered by some to be a favourite for the position, is one of three Canadians — including Cardinal Thomas Collins from Toronto and Quebec Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte — who will participate in the conclave to select the next pope.

Ouellet participated in 2005 conclave

Ouellet's current role at the Vatican has him overseeing the appointment of bishops. He is also an active member of several Roman Catholic commissions and committees.

Ouellet was appointed metropolitan archbishop of Quebec in November 2002, and elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals one year later. He participated in the conclave that led to the papal election of Benedict in April 2005.

He is also prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Born in La Motte, in northwestern Quebec, Ouellet spent several years working in Colombia early in his priesthood. Among his six languages, he speaks fluent Spanish — apparently with a Colombian accent.

Tracey Rowland, the author of a book on Pope Benedict’s theological writing and Dean of Melbourne’s John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, has said Ouellet is a highly regarded theologian.

But in Quebec, many see Ouellet as a social conservative, whose views are far to the right of the prevailing attitude on issues ranging from birth control to homosexual marriage to women in the priesthood.