Cardinal-designate Collins doesn’t anticipate many great changes with his new position in the Church. He expects ministering to the people of the archdiocese of Toronto will remain his primary focus. Photo by Michael Swan

Honour recognizes gifts of Toronto Catholics [Cardinal-designate Collins Q&A]

  • February 13, 2012

Cardinal-designate Thomas Collins will be elevated to the College of Cardinals by the Pope at a Vatican ceremony on Feb. 18. Amid a busy schedule as he prepares for that important event, he took time to speak directly to the readers of The Catholic Register by answering a set of prepared questions.

What has your life been like since the announcement on Jan. 6 in terms of public reaction and demands on your time?

In many ways, my daily life hasn’t changed since the Holy Father announced my appointment to the College of Cardinals. My schedule remains as busy as ever, serving the people of the archdiocese of Toronto. Of course, there has been some time involved in preparing for the consistory on Feb. 18, but nothing too onerous.

When it comes to public reaction, however, I am touched by the number of messages of congratulations I have received from people from all over the world, and from many different faiths. Their prayers and well wishes are a blessing for me. I hope they will continue to pray for me as I do for them, especially as I take on this new role. I have been trying to reply personally to the many messages of congratulations, but I am afraid I am behind in that, as there are so many. 

I truly see this appointment as a recognition of the gifts of the Catholic community both in the archdiocese of Toronto and throughout our country.


Your elevation to the College of Cardinals has generated considerable positive publicity. How can that be translated into positive energy that will last long after the consistory?

It is affirming when the Church receives positive recognition in the media as this helps tell our story to those who may have fallen away from the Church or don’t know as much about us.  You could fill every page of the newspaper with positive faith-related stories that are quietly happening around us every day. There is no shortage of good acts to celebrate publicly.

If the consistory in Rome, and to some degree my own appointment as a cardinal, can help renew some people’s interest in the Catholic Church and their faith, that would be wonderful.

In fact, the Holy Father has asked that on the day before
the consistory, the cardinals and cardinals-designate all gather in a day of prayer and reflection around the New Evangelization. We will also hear an update about the upcoming Year of Faith. I pray we can carry the momentum of the consistory into the autumn, when the Year of Faith begins. I’m sure there will be a great deal of positive energy and creative ideas to help contribute to this New Evangelization.

His new role will take Archbishop Collins to Rome more often, but he doesn’t see it as adding much more to his already busy workload as archbishop of Toronto.

His new role will take Archbishop Collins to Rome more often, but he doesn’t see it as adding much more to his already busy workload as archbishop of Toronto.

Photo by Michael Swan

Is it daunting to think that you will retain all your current responsibilities as archbishop of Toronto but also take on important new duties on behalf of the world Church?

My primary focus remains to faithfully serve the people of the archdiocese as their shepherd. Pope Benedict once said that one of the best ways for a bishop to help the universal Church is by faithfully caring for the local Church that has been entrusted to him.

Aside from some additional periodic travel to Rome, I don’t expect the duties of my new position to increase my workload very much.

I have been fortunate to have been asked already to serve the Church outside of our own diocese in a number of ways over the past five years. I serve as a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, as well as being involved in the Synod of Bishops at a Special Assembly for the Middle East. I have assisted the Holy Father as an Apostolic Visitor in Ireland and also as the Delegate of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for Anglicanorum Coetibus. I also am on the committee that helps prepare translations of liturgical texts.


As a cardinal, in what ways would you like to impact the lives of Catholics in Canada and around the world? Have you established any priorities among the matters you’d like to address?

In my day-to-day work, my goal is the same as it was when I was first ordained as a priest: that I might strengthen, sustain and inspire faith in the people I meet, and especially those entrusted to my pastoral care.

As priests, we dedicate ourselves to the task of fueling the flame of faith. As the archbishop of Toronto, there have been a number of key priorities over the past few years that will continue: supporting our clergy and parishes, promoting vocations, nurturing Catholic education and reaching out to Christian refugees. More than 140 of our parishes in the archdiocese of Toronto are in the process of sponsoring refugee families.

I’m blessed to have talented and committed people working closely with me on these goals so we will continue to tackle the challenges ahead together.

Attracting new vocations and keeping young Catholics involved in the Church are ongoing challenges. How can they be addressed?

Our society, with its consumer-focussed media-driven messages, is full of noise and distractions that compete  for our attention. We need to ask one another to put down our smart phones, turn off the screens and iPods and find the time and space for some personal silence and reflection.

The Holy Father speaks of the gift of silence in his 2012 Message for World Communications Day. When we are still and we listen to our hearts, we can recognize the desire within us all to be closer to God. By no mistake, the Holy Mass provides a ready-made place for that sort of reflection and soul searching. There, in unity with Our Lord, we can truly find ourselves. This is also the reason that we have instituted a media fast as part of the spiritual year which we have introduced at St. Augustine’s Seminary in the year before the seminarians begin their studies of theology.

In the archdiocese of Toronto, and across Canada, there are vibrant youth programs in place in many of our parishes, providing young people with the chance to explore and expand their faith among peers, with the guidance of well-trained, faith-informed youth ministers. Chaplains in our Catholic schools guide our students in a similar way. I’m truly grateful for the ministry of those youth workers. It’s through them that we will keep many young people connected with their Church.

The Pope has spoken about the secularization of Western society, particularly in Europe. Do you see a similar issue in Canada and, if so, how can it be addressed?

The Holy Father’s comments apply equally to North America — I think it’s a phenomenon that exists throughout the so-called developed world. There is a tendency for people (governments and media, in particular) to think faith has no place outside of church celebrations and our personal thoughts, as though faith has no place in the public forum. This is precisely why the Pope’s commitment to the New Evangelization is so important.

We need to be reminded to carry our faith with us in all facets of our lives; in our workplace, our school life, our family life and our public life. We will see a renewed emphasis on this notion as the Year of Faith unfolds, and I hope  that year will bear fruit for many years to come.

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