Cardinal Ambrozic

  • December 22, 2006

The announcement of who would be the next archbishop of Toronto has been much anticipated, not least by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic himself. At almost 77, he gets a well-deserved rest after labouring 30 years as bishop in that Lord's vineyard we call the archdiocese of Toronto.

The cardinal welcomed his successor, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Edmonton, with generous words: "He is a wise man, a man of faith and a man who will look to the Holy Spirit for guidance and counsel." Ambrozic could have said these same words about himself, though he would be too humble to do so.

The cardinal has been described as many things in mainstream media, some not so complimentary. He is often referred to as "controversial," meaning that those who run the media and their friends do not agree with his stands. It's no secret that his relationship with journalists has sometimes been stormy.

But media relations have not been foremost in the cardinal's mind over his many years as priest, professor, auxiliary bishop, then archbishop of Toronto. In place of honour is Jesus of Nazareth, whom the cardinal often mentions in kindly, even loving terms. To all who have ever watched and heard the man, there is no doubting that his love of Jesus is deep and life-giving.

Next, of course, is his flock. Without fanfare, the cardinal put in countless hours visiting parishes, lay Catholic movements and groups, as well as agencies devoted to the welfare of the poor and suffering. He did all of this quietly, partially because he hates drawing attention to himself, but also because he simply saw it as something that one does as a Christian going about his daily affairs.

The cardinal has long been a rock for Catholic orthodoxy and cares little that it is often not popular. In fact, his reputation for doctrinal conservatism has overshadowed an aspect of his ministry that is equally doctrinally correct: his support for social justice. Time and again, Ambrozic has quietly encouraged those engaged in social and political activism on behalf of the underprivileged to continue their vital work and has supported them when they met resistance.

Not many are familiar with his relationship to The Catholic Register. As archbishop of Toronto, he is chair of the board of directors of this newspaper and has responsibility for the welfare and mission of the newspaper. He has used this responsibility deftly, giving the journalists who publish this journal valuable freedom to create a form of journalism that is shaped by the Catholic faith and is a reflection of both the light and dark sides of the church's reality.

In the Dec. 17 statement on his retirement, Cardinal Ambrozic said: "The greatest reward one can experience in one's life is to serve Jesus. For this I will be eternally grateful." The country can be just as grateful that this Scripture professor was called and replied: "Here I am, Lord."

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