Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto leaves the sacristy to celebrate Mass as he takes possession of his titular church of St. Patrick in Rome Oct. 23. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Toronto cardinal 'becoming a parish priest' as honorary pastor in Rome

By  Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service
  • October 24, 2012

ROME - Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto took possession of his titular church Oct. 23, celebrating an evening Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Rome.

"Now, after 40 years of ordination to the priesthood, I am, in a certain sense, becoming a parish priest," the cardinal said in his homily.

Cardinal Collins, who became a cardinal in February, was assigned to be honorary pastor of the Irish national church in Rome, which is entrusted to the Augustinian order. All cardinals are given honorary title to a church in Rome, as a reminder that the early popes were elected by the city's pastors.

"Although a cardinal relates to the universal church, he is also a parish priest, and that's something very, very beautiful," the cardinal told the congregation, which included pilgrims from Toronto and his former Archdiocese of Edmonton, Alberta, as well as Anne Leahy, Canada's ambassador to the Vatican.

"The church is universal and the church is always local, like concave and convex, the universal and local," he said. "Those two must go together."

The cardinal concelebrated with about 20 priests, including Archbishops Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan, Alberta, and Richard Smith of Edmonton, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec.

"As Christians, we need to be solid as a community of faith in building the temple of the Lord," the cardinal said. "But it's not enough to be stable, solid, joined together. If we were only to do that, we would miss the point of who we are."

"We need to have that fire, that zeal for evangelization," he said, pointing to the example of St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland. "We are called to spread that life, that light, that fire, and kindle fire in the hearts of others."

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