Rumours are swirling that a Canadian could take over as the new leader of the Catholic Church following Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation.

Oddsmakers have pegged Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the former archbishop of Quebec, as one of the frontrunners to succeed Benedict.

Ouellet is one of the Pope’s closest advisors in the Vatican and is globally considered a well-known cardinal.

The 68-year-old is in a similar position that Benedict found himself following the 2005 death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict was then considered a frontrunner because he was a close advisor to Pope John Paul II and he was well-known by cardinals worldwide.

“There tends to be a little more notability from those cardinals that are involved at the Vatican and Cardinal Marc Ouellet is literally one of the closest advisors of the current Pope,” Archdiocese of Toronto spokesman Neil MacCarthy told CP24 on Monday.

U.K. betting house ranked Ouellet as most likely to replace Benedict with odds of 11 to 4. Ouellet is also the favourite according to at 7 to 2.

Raised in the small Quebec village of La Motte, the 68-year-old was named a cardinal in 2003 by Pope John Paul.

The former archbishop of Quebec has a lengthy resume. He has obtained advanced degrees in theology and philosophy from Italian universities. Ouellet also served as a rector at the Grand Seminary in Montreal in the early 1990s, followed by St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton.

In Rome, he was chairman of dogmatic theology at a branch of the Pontifical Lateran University, and was a staff member at the Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy.

He is currently the head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.

Ouellet is well-positioned within the Vatican to be a frontrunner, said John Zucchi, professor of history and classical studies at McGill University in Montreal.

“I think the fact that he was placed where he is was also Pope Benedict making clear to other cardinals that here is someone to watch,” he told CTV News.

Zucchi said Ouellet would be a qualified successor.

“He has a very, very, very keen intellect,” he said. “He’s a very holy man, he’s certainly one who loves the Church, he certainly has shown his capacity at administration.”

The cardinal is not without his critics, having come under fire for calling abortion a moral crime, even in the case of rape.

And in 2005, he testified before a Canadian Senate committee, encouraging lawmakers to block a same-sex marriage bill. Bill C-38 was eventually approved by the Senate.

Michael Swan, associate editor of The Catholic Register, raised doubt that Ouellet would eventually be chosen as leader of the Catholic Church, despite the fact that he seems well-respected by cardinals. Swan said those who choose a successor will examine who’s best to handle issues within the world Church, including the persecution of Christians in parts of Asia and the challenges of secularism, pentecostalism and evangelicalism in Latin America.

“A guy from North America seems to me an unlikely choice for those challenges which I think would be higher on the agenda than his record as a theologian,” Swan said.

In an interview published by Catholic news organization Salt + Light TV last year, Ouellet discussed the possibility of becoming the future leader of the Catholic Church.

"I don't see myself at this level, not at all... because I see how much it entails (in terms of) responsibility," he said in response to a question on the subject. "On the other hand, I say I believe that the Holy Spirit will help the cardinals do a good choice for the leadership of the Church, the Catholic Church, in the future."

Ouellet is one of at least three Canadians -- alongside 120 others -- who will be taking part in the process to elect Benedict’s successor. The other two are Cardinal Thomas Collins, of the Archdiocese of Toronto, and retired cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, of Montreal.

With files from CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press