Guelph Native Becoming a Cardinal

The Record
January 8, 2012

Cardinal poses Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins poses for a portrait at St. Michaels Cathedral in Toronto on Friday. The Guelph-born Collins is among 22 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church named by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican announced Friday.
Photo by Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press

TORONTO — A Guelph native, the Archbishop of Toronto Tom Collins, has been promoted to the Pope's international circle of advisers, the College of Cardinals.

Collins got the call Thursday from the papal nuncio's office in Ottawa.

"I am deeply honoured that the Holy Father has called me to be a member of the College of Cardinals," Collins, 64, said in a statement.

"I am grateful for the trust he has placed in me, and recognize this honour as a sign of his esteem for the role of Canada and of the Archdiocese of Toronto in the universal Church."

Collins is one of 22 new cardinals named by Pope Benedict XVI. They will all be formally elevated in a ceremony on Feb. 18 in Rome.

Cardinal-designate Collins has been archbishop of Toronto since Dec. 16, 2006, and was ordained a priest in 1973. Previously, he had served as bishop of St. Paul, Alta. and archbishop of Edmonton.

The College of Cardinals elects a new pope after the death of the sitting one and meets at the pontiff's request to discuss church matters. Most members also serve on committees, the Toronto archdiocese said in a news release.

In August, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, the Archbishop of Toronto, died. Collins presided at his funeral mass.

Collins, who was born in Guelph, will be the 16th Canadian cardinal and the fourth in the Toronto archdiocese, the largest in Canada with 1.9 million Catholics and 225 churches celebrating mass in more than 30 different languages.

Collins has deep roots in Guelph. His ancestors arrived in 1832 and his grandparents were the first couple to be married at the Church of Our Lady.

He grew up on Durham Street behind the Church of Our Lady where he was an altar server and received his sacraments.

Collins is also a graduate of St. Jerome's University in Waterloo. He graduated from the school in 1968 and was recognized as a distinguished graduate in 2006.

In an interview with Mercury News Services on Friday, he said he got the call to join the 700-year-old inner circle of Pope Benedict in a message on his smartphone.

"I was in Washington (Thursday) working on translation for the new liturgy when I got an email on my BlackBerry to call the nuncio's office in Ottawa," Collins said.

"I was kind of overwhelmed. I just said, 'I'm deeply honoured. Thank you very much.' "

"My main responsibility will still be the archdiocese," Collins said. "A cardinal has somewhat further scope for the whole church. One of the important things we need to do is preach the gospel."

Collins has already served in special roles at the request of Pope Benedict. Last year, he was appointed to a panel investigating sexual abuse in Ireland.

About that inquiry, he said the church needs to be "very involved in the life of society — addressing problems in society and helping and encouraging people to deal with that.

"If someone is suffering, if someone is in trouble, if someone is in need, the religious people are the first to respond."

He praised the devotion and goodness of the vast majority of the archdiocese's Catholics.

This year, the pope also assigned Collins as his representative in Canada to recruit Anglicans who wanted to join the Catholic Church but retain their traditions.

In the coming year, Collins is looking forward to being a part of Benedict XVI's campaign for a "new evangelization."

He described it as "reaching out in a secular society to preach the gospel, to bring the joy and energy of Christ in a society that sometimes gets a bit jaded and cynical."

The pope, he said, "is seeing very clearly the issues of the whole church. He's always encouraging bishops to speak out. He's just an amazing man. He's written wonderful books, short ones which I find kind of helpful."

Msgr. Edward Sheridan, parish priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Waterloo, said being promoted to cardinal is an important appointment.

"It's a very significant honour for Canada," he said. "The city of Guelph can be very proud to have one of their own named a cardinal."

Canada now has three cardinals. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, now resident in Rome, was appointed a cardinal-priest by Pope John Paul in 2003. Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, formerly archbishop of Montreal, was appointed cardinal by Pope John Paul in 1994.

The other North American bishop appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict is Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan.

Sheridan said the College of Cardinals, with its representatives from around the globe, is "a wonderful way of the pope being informed and hearing on issues from voices around the world."

Sheridan said Collins was ordained a priest in the Hamilton Diocese and ordained a bishop in the diocese by former Bishop Anthony Tonnos.

"He has roots in our diocese," he said.

Sheridan said he isn't surprised that the pope choose a Canadian to the College of Cardinals.


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