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The Catholic Register offers its readers dependable information and opinion as a joyful servant of God's pilgrim church.

If it is possible for something to be shocking but not surprising then the so-called election robo-calls controversy fits the bill. Elections Canada has fielded 31,000 complaints from voters who say they were on the receiving end of telephone dirty tricks on or around federal election day last May.

The revelations are shocking because widespread deception may be expected in fledgling democracies or authoritarian states that masquerade as democracies, but surely not in a country like Canada. Then again, the allegations are not surprising because, sadly, Canadian politics have been travelling a slippery slope for many years when it comes to declining moral standards and ethical practices. Maybe we should have seen this coming.

Protect Syria’s Christians

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a despot whose shooting and shelling of his own people cannot be defended, yet he may be the last line of defence for Syria’s Catholics.

For that reason, Syrian Church leaders are taking a cautious approach to the nearly year-long rebellion to topple Assad. They have been pleading for calm, for dialogue and for Western assistance to find a peaceful solution to Syria’s popular uprising as the nation moves ever closer to all-out civil war. So far, the dispute is political, but churchmen fear the fighting may quickly turn religious.

‘We are called to live for Christ’ - Cardinal Collins

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ROME - Canada’s newest cardinal, resplendent in shimmering scarlet vestments, was still adjusting to his new look on Feb. 18 when he arrived at a reception in his honour. Barely two hours earlier he had become His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins after Pope Benedict XVI welcomed Toronto’s archbishop into the College of Cardinals on a sunny Saturday morning.

“These robes are very bright,” quipped Collins. “I’ll certainly stick out in a crowd.”

Cardinal Collins’ Irish roots come in handy for his titular parish in Rome

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ROME - For the first time in its 100-year history, St. Patrick’s Irish National Church in Rome has a Cardinal Protector who is not Irish. But in Cardinal Thomas Collins the congregation figures it has been blessed with the next best thing.

“He has Irish roots,” said Fr. Tony Finn. “So there’s still an Irish connection. We’re delighted.”

When the Pope welcomes new members into the College of Cardinals they are made a titular pastor of a church in Rome. As such, they are entitled to vote in a papal conclave in keeping with  the centuries-old tradition that the clergy of Rome elect the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Collins learned that he was awarded St. Patrick’s a few days before the consistory but was sworn to secrecy until the Pope’s announcement.

To his sisters, Cardinal Collins will remain ‘T’

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ROME - The first thing that went through the minds of Catherine and Patricia Collins when they saw their little brother in the full regalia of a cardinal was: “Wow, he really stands out now!”

They said that with love and pride shortly after Pope Benedict XVI made His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins the 16th cardinal in Canadian history. The sisters were at their brother’s side at several events during the days leading up to the Feb. 18 consistory, but nothing topped the moment when Collins joined the College of Cardinals.

A cardinal’s joy

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Cardinal Thomas Collins is a happy person by nature but there was something particularly joyful about him during his journey to Rome to become a cardinal.

Many people commented on it. He was seldom without a smile, without a quip, without infectious exuberance.

A couple days before he received his red hat, Collins was asked how he was feeling. “Imminently eminent,” he replied, with a broad smile. The next day, wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, he hammed it up for a photographer in St. Peter’s Square, resulting in a picture of pure happiness and contentment.

"Diving right into the chaos" - Jim O'Leary

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ROME - Roman traffic is chaotic. The speed limit is established by the pace of the car ahead. Stops signs mean ease up a bit on the gas. Signalling a turn is for sissies. Except at major intersections, a red light means look both ways before proceeding.

Cardinal Thomas Collins receives his red biretta [w/ video]

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Other than doing a "happy dance," Canada's newest cardinal every bit resembled a man who just won the lottery.

"It's a tremendous moment of joy," said His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins after Pope Benedict XVI accepted him into the College of Cardinals on a sunny Saturday morning.

"It's astonishing and amazing to be there at St. Peter's, at the tomb of St. Peter," Collins said.

Collins is enjoying his moment in the sun

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ROME - With a wink and a smile, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins describes himself as  "imminently eminent."

That's eminent as in hours away from becoming His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, archbishop of Toronto.

In a ceremony that has been stripped of some of its pomp by Pope Benedict XVI, Collins and 20 other bishops will kneel before the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday morning to be welcomed into the College of Cardinals. The Pope will place a red biretta on the head of each new cardinal and give them an engraved gold ring as well as a scroll with the name of their new honorary parish in Rome. The ceremony will begin at 4:30 eastern time and will be available live on Salt+Light Television.

Charity for salvation

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The Quebec Church may have lost legions of worshippers in recent years but it hasn’t lost its sense of humour.

That was evident last week when, with tongue in cheek, the archdiocese of Montreal placed newspaper ads asking the faithful to pray for the Montreal Canadiens.

Scientifically speaking

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The planet is a better place because humans are a curious species. Occasionally, a scientific discovery comes by happen-chance but typically it flows from a curious mind asking the right question.

Thus we are living longer and more comfortably than ever. Progress has been mankind’s hallmark since before the invention of the wheel. Life is full of wonder. One discovery leads to another. The Wright brothers wondered if man could fly and barely a lifetime later Neil Armstrong was standing on the moon.