Pope Francis addresses the College of Cardinals in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall March 15. CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano

Collins extends prayers of Canadians to new Pope

By 
  • March 23, 2013

Cardinal Thomas Collins extended Pope Francis the best wishes and prayers of Canada in a brief meeting March 15 in the Clementine Hall of the apostolic palace.

“We didn’t have much time to speak,” said the Toronto cardinal on the telephone from Rome.

“But on behalf of the people of Canada I said we are praying for you. The line was huge.”

Pope Francis exchanged a brief greeting with each cardinal after addressing them collectively. Speaking in Italian to the assembly, the Pope frequently went off script and “ad-libbed a lot,” Collins said.

“Unfortunately, the acoustics were not too good and my Italian is not perfect, so I look forward to obtaining a text of his remarks.”

The Clementine Hall is where Pope Benedict addressed the cardinals for the final time, and where he vowed support for his successor. To return there two weeks later to be with Pope Francis “was quite moving,” Collins said.

Collins said his first impression of the new Pope is that “Pope Francis is a very loving, loving man. He is truly a shepherd of souls.”

That sentiment, he said, seems to be have taken hold across Rome. In a taxi, Collins asked the driver for his impressions of the new Pope. With a big smile, the driver described a Pope who is “simpatico” with the people, Collins said.

“People are just delighted,” Collins said. “He is a wonderful, very warm man with a very pastoral approach.”

Pope Francis’ first public act on his first morning as Pope was to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray and leave a bouquet of flowers at the altar in humble devotion to the Blessed Mary.

“Now, there is a bishop,” Collins said. “There is someone who is close to the people.”

Collins was amused that the media called the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio a surprise. He said he read “media buzz” that ranked the Argentine cardinal 42nd among 115 cardinals on a list of favourites.

“All this astonishing speculation went on,” he said. “It’s not very real.”

He said the conclave bore no resemblance to the political convention atmosphere depicted in the media. It was spiritual and collegial. And dramatic.

“The drama of it was amazing,” Collins said. “You heard the clunk and the doors were shut. You looked around and realized we were alone — 115 of us, alone. Then the balloting began.”
It is a blessing that Pope Francis has what Collins called a “profound knowledge” of Latin America, a region with the world’s highest concentration of Catholics. Yet, although the cardinals were conscious of Bergoglio’s pastoral ministry in Argentina, it wasn’t a huge factor as they cast ballots, Collins said.

“The key is that he is the Bishop of Rome,” he said.

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