Cardinal designate Thomas Collins
TORONTO – Cardinal designate Thomas Collins is not anticipating great changes in his life after Pope Benedict XVI officially elevates him next month to the College of Cardinals.
His primary duty, he said, will be to continue to provide faithful leadership to the Archdiocese of Toronto.
"My focus will continue to be the bishop of this diocese," he told an impromptu media gathering following noon Mass at St. Michael's Cathedral. "I may have some additional duties, by my fundamental duties won't change."
Collins was one of 22 bishops Pope Benedict designated to be cardinals on Jan. 6 following Mass at the Vatican on the Feast of the Epiphany. He will become Canada's third active cardinal, joining Cardinals Marc Ouellet, president of the Congregation of Bishops in the Vatican, and Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal.
He said he learned of the news Thursday night after he returned from a trip to Washington and had a message on his Blackberry to call the Ottawa office of the Nuncio, the Vatican's representative in Canada.
"He told me that the Holy Father was going to make me a cardinal," Collins said."I said 'wow!' I was astonished. What a great honour."
Typically humble, Collins said the honour does not belong to him alone as much as it is a sign of the Pope's esteem for the role of Canada and, in particular, its largest diocese in the universal Church.
"It was an overwhelming experience to receive the call," he said.
The consistory at which the new cardinals will be installed will take place Feb. 18-19 in Rome. Collins will become the fourth cardinal in the 110-year history of the archdiocese of Toronto and the 16th cardinal in the history of Canada. He follows Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic who passed away in Toronto last August at age 81.
Although Collins, who turns 65 on Jan. 16, will remain archbishop of Toronto he expects to become more involved in the worldwide life of the Church by being asked to serve on Vatican commissions or committees. He doesn't anticipate his responsibilities will change but will become different as he moves into a "newer dimension."
"Most of the day-to-day work will be the same," he said. "I'll just do my best."
He said one of the most profound moments in his life was when he was called to serve as a priest, "but I never imagined it would evolve like this," he said.
At the death of the Pope, cardinals under the age of 80 gather in conclave in Rome for a closed meeting to elect a new pope. Collins called this the "most profound" responsibility of a cardinal.
He gave the homily at St. Michael's noon Mass on Friday and said he hopes to pattern his work as a cardinal after two saints he cites as his heroes, Francis de Sales and Charles Borromeo. In particular, he said he admires the focus on faith that St. Borromeo brought to his duties as cardinal of Milan in the 16th century.
"As Catholics, we are called not to drift, but to be focussed," he said.
Collins was widely rumoured last year to be in line for a cardinal's red hat. The Pope has given him several significant assignments over the past two years. In 2010 he was made a member of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications, was named as Apostolic Visitor to the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, Ireland, and sat on the Synod of Bishops to assess the situation of Christians in the Middle East. In 2011 Collins was made a member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and was named as the Vatican's Canadian delegate for Anglicanorum Coetibus, established to receive Anglicans into the Catholic Church.
Born and raised in Guelph, Ont., Collins was ordained a priest in 1973. Pope John Paul II named him bishop of St. Paul, Alta., in 1997 and archbishop of Edmonton in 1999. Pope Benedict later appointed him as the 10th archbishop of Toronto on December 16, 2006.
The other new cardinals named on Friday include two Americans, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the former archbishop of Baltimore, as well as prelates from Hong Kong, Berlin, Prague, Florence and some key Vatican offices. Eighteen of the new cardinals are under age 80 and therefore eligible to participate in papal conclaves. The additions bring the number of cardinals eligible to vote in a papal conclave to 125.
Pope Benedict has now named more than half of the current cardinal electors, with the rest having been named by Blessed John Paul II. The latest nominations included 16 Europeans, continuing a trend in Benedict's cardinal appointments.
Seven of the new appointments are Italians, which will bring that nation's total of cardinal electors to 30 (24 percent), more than any other country.None of the new cardinals are from Africa, the region where the church is experiencing its fastest growth, or Oceania.
Ten of the new cardinals are officials of the Roman Curia, whose offices by tradition often entail membership in the college.