May 12, 2014

ROME – Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins mused whether the extraordinary popes the Catholic Church has had in Popes John XXIII and John Paul II and other recent popes is a sign of weakness.

God has blessed the Church with "spectacular popes" in recent centuries, Collins said in an April 25 interview.

That "may be a sign that we are rather weak because there are times in the history of the Church when we didn't have such good popes," he said.

"Ultimately, it's the office of Peter that matters, not the individual pope."

Collins said he is "amazingly edified" that Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher gave their lives for the office of Peter, "when he wasn't anything like any of the popes we've had in the last couple of hundred years.

"They had just had Alexander VI and some of these other ones. That takes extraordinary faith and it is amazing, to think of the great martyrdom of those two of my favourite saints.

"We have not been put to the test," Collins said. "We've had one good pope after another."

The Toronto cardinal said he was moved by reading St. John XXIII's The Journal of a Soul. The future saint grew in holiness through "tremendous surrender to God's will," he said.

"Pope John Paul II was more one to move out with great scholarly ability and a real ability to communicate and of course he reached out to around the whole world, did a great work of evangelization," Collins said.

Collins said he met John Paul II up close as archbishop of Edmonton when he and other Canadian bishops made their once-every-five-year ad limina visits to Rome.

"I was just very impressed by the way in which he was most interested in how the young people were doing and how the families were doing," Collins said. "In those days, you would have 15 minutes alone with the pope. Fifteen minutes alone with a saint! There we are!"