Toronto’s Archbishop Thomas Collins Receives Pope’s Call to Become Cardinal

When a new pope is chosen, white smoke trails from the Vatican as proclamation of the event. When a new cardinal is selected, the announcement is made via email.  At least, that’s the way it happened for Toronto’s Archbishop Thomas Collins when he was called to the College of Cardinals yesterday by Pope Benedict XVI.

“I was in Washington yesterday working on translation for the new liturgy when I got an email on my BlackBerry,” Collins told The Toronto Star.

With the promotion, Collins becomes Toronto’s fourth cardinal and Canada’s 16th. The news came as an early birthday present for the archbishop, who turns 65 on Jan. 16.

Born in Guelph, Ont., Collins was ordained a priest in Hamilton in May 1973. He became a bishop in Alberta in 1997 and, in 2006, began serving as archbishop of Toronto. In a statement, the archbishop said that his promotion was not only a nod to his work but to all Catholics in Toronto.

“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 said.

Technically, though cardinals have many jobs within the church – for example, Pope Benedict XVI recently tasked Collins with helping to recruit Anglicans concerned with preserving their traditions – their major role is to advise the pope on church matters and, in the event of the pontiff’s death or resignation, elect a new Bishop of Rome. Technically, despite the long odds, with this appointment, Collins moves one step closer to being the first Canadian-born pope. Regardless, Collins says his focus remains on the city of Toronto.

“My main responsibility will still be the archdiocese,” Collins told The Toronto Star. “A cardinal has somewhat further scope for the whole Church. One of the important things we need to do is preach the gospel.”

Collins and newly appointed cardinals from 13 other countries will receive their official elevation from Pope Benedict XVI in a consistory on Feb. 18 and 19 in Rome.

-Mike Crisolago