“That was a good relationship. I admired his energy to evangelize and his testimony in suffering. He was a great man of offering his life and being at the foot of the cross with the Virgin Mary,” he said. “I admired his last years, which were very heavy as a burden. But he gave a great witness to the Church.”
Ouellet called Pope Benedict XVI, instead, a “doctor of the Church.”
“I think we have a legacy of doctrine and reflection, and of a theologian, also, that will last for centuries” in Benedict, the cardinal said. “Ratzinger is a name that will last [for] centuries, for his contribution to theology and also to the Church.”
Benedict, he continued, “did not have the charism of Francis — the pastoral contact with people and to give enthusiasm to people — that was not his charism. The lesson that I take from this experience is that the Church is very rich in resources. And the Petrine ministry in particular is very adaptable.”
“Yeah, we had such different popes... And that’s in the continuity of the work of the Holy Spirit in history. He brings us the right man at the right moment. And that doesn’t mean that they are infallible in everything they do — all with limits and also mistakes — but they are men guided by the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen that in Pope Francis.”
Ouellet himself was considered “papabile” — or a potential choice for the papacy — during the 2005 and 2013 conclaves.
And both during his time as an archbishop and as a cardinal, he has not been afraid to wade into Church debates.
When the Vatican’s 2019 Amazon Synod brought up the topic of ordaining as priests “viri probati,” meaning “proven men” who are married, Ouellet published a book defending the practice of priestly celibacy.
Explaining why he decided to write a book on the topic of celibacy, Ouellet said the subject deserves “serious treatment in the Church.”
“And because,” he continued, “I think it is an extraordinary gift of God to the Church, the gift of celibacy for priests and the gift of celibacy, also, in religious life and consecrated life. It’s so important for evangelization. Why? Because it is a witness to the identity of Jesus: Who is Jesus?”
He went on to explain that priestly celibacy is more than just a question of discipline: “We have to think of celibacy … from the position and the ministry of the bishop.”
“And all bishops, from the beginning, from the apostles, were chosen, and Jesus asked them to leave everything, even family, and to follow him,” Ouellet said. “And they did that, why? Because they acknowledged who this man was. He was not just a bigger prophet, he was the Son of God, the Son of God and the Risen One, and so he can require this condition to follow him as also a witness of love, of availability for the mission. I think this is a great gift to the Catholic Church; it has been kept along the centuries, and I hope it will stay.”
Speaking about the traits he looks for in a bishop, Ouellet told EWTN News the leader of a local Church “has to not only have a solid doctrine but to have a very vivid, existential faith. That means he is able to discern the presence of the Spirit in people, to discern charism and to bring people together.”
He should also inspire trust in his people and share the Word of God, he added. “That’s what the world needs: a man of communion; that is, not a sort of hero or a cultural warrior. No, a man of the Gospel and of the people, a closeness to people, and a sense of a heart, a fatherly heart.”
Last year, Ouellet was accused of sexual assault by a woman identified pseudonymously as “F.” in a class-action civil suit filed by multiple plaintiffs against the Archdiocese of Québec. The accusation dated to the cardinal’s time as archbishop of Québec.
The cardinal, who has strenuously denied the accusation, filed a defamation lawsuit in Québec courts in December 2022.
“I have never been guilty of these reprehensible behaviors,” the cardinal said in a Dec. 13 statement accompanying the lawsuit.
“I am taking legal action for defamation before the courts of Québec,” he said, “in order to prove the falsity of the allegations made against me and to restore my reputation and honor.”
The Vatican conducted a preliminary investigation into the accusation in August 2022. Pope Francis determined that there was not sufficient evidence to begin a canonical investigation against Ouellet for sexual assault.