Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte CNS photo

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte expects nothing less than excellence from Collins

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  • February 13, 2012

OTTAWA - When asked what advice or encouragement Cardinal-designate  Thomas Collins might need in his new position, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte laughed.

“I will it say it’s courage,” the cardinal said from his office in Montreal. “To be a cardinal, it’s a lot of work. It is not only to elect the Pope!”

Collins will become a member of many congregations, or dicasteries, in the Holy See, Turcotte said. “Cardinals are the counsellors of the Pope in those different congregations.”  He can expect to do a lot more travelling to Rome, he added.

But Turcotte noted Collins already has much experience in running a large, busy and important diocese.

“He will be very good,” he said, noting that he has known Collins for many years. “I think he’s a good organizer of his time.”

The best advice he can give is to find “many, many assistants to help him in his job,” the cardinal said. “He will have to delegate to his assistants in his diocese some work he was able to do before to find time for all the demands he will receive from the Pope.”

Turcotte suggested staying informed through finding confidence in assistants, and becoming more of a supervisor than he was before. But he expected that in such a large diocese as Toronto, Collins already knows a lot about successful delegation.

Turcotte pointed out that he has reached retirement age of 75, so he appreciates that a younger bishop like Collins has been made a cardinal. “I will have to leave very soon,” he said.

Canada will now have three cardinals, two based in Canada and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, based in Rome as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Turcotte received his red hat in the consistory of 1994 and took part in the Conclave of 2005 that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

He does not know how Collins will feel when he receives his red hat in Rome Feb.18, but he recalled how impressive the ceremony was and what a honour it is to be so close to the Pope in an inclusive group of about 150 cardinals. And he recalled what went through his mind at the time.

“My own feeling: I’m going to have more work than I have now!” he said.

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Turcotte said he accepted the honour with humility. “I come from a very humble family,” he said, stressing it is important not to take him for someone other than who he is. “I think it is important to serve.”

He said he suspected that Collins, like himself, had no ambitions to become a bishop or a cardinal when he was ordained to the priesthood.

“We accept to serve the Church and to serve the people,” he said. “When the Pope asks you to serve, the only thing you can say is yes, I accept to serve.”

Collins will also have a wonderful sense of being received by all his confreres as a member of the College of Cardinals, among important and bright men from all over the world.

“We become friends all together,” he said. “It’s like a team or club, very exclusive,” that will give the new cardinal a chance to know very well some “very important men in the Church.”

He praised Collins’ Scripture scholarship, a competence that will be most useful for the Church.

“The most important thing we have to do is teach the Gospel, and on that topic Tom Collins is a very good specialist,” he said

“It was not a surprise for me that he was chosen by the Pope to be a cardinal,” Turcotte said, noting the importance of the Toronto diocese in Canada and the fact that his predecessors were named cardinals as well. As archbishop of Toronto he was already an important man in the Church in Canada, he said. “Tom is going to be an important man in the Universal Church, too.”

The archbishops of Montreal, Toronto and Quebec are ex-officio members of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Permanent Council, another important responsibility. This entails meetings four or five times a year for a couple of days. Turcotte has spent 20 years on the Permanent Council, and has observed Collins’ contribution there over recent years.

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