Archbishop Francis Leo of Toronto receives his pallium at a Mass in St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica, Toronto, Sept. 29, 2023. Photo courtesy Archdiocese of Toronto

Archbishop Francis Leo vows to keep his flock safe

By  Joshua Ben Joseph, Catholic Register Special
  • October 2, 2023

As Toronto Archbishop Francis Leo was conferred the pallium at a Sept. 29 ceremony at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, the archbishop promised that he would, like the shepherd, keep watch over his flock and keep them safe.

Leo, in his homily before hundreds in the cathedral, including more than 130 priests and 15 bishops, vowed to seek out the lost and forgotten sheep in his flock and to put them on his shoulders and carry them to safety.

Also in attendance was a multitude of youth, many of whom recently attended World Youth Day in Portugal. The archbishop asked the youth to not be afraid in taking risks for the Lord. Moreover, he urged them to be more engaged in works of evangelization and, in turn, fully experience the manifold of God’s blessings.

“Know that you are loved and supported as you walk along the way. You are very important; you’re cherished members of the family. And you’re blessed,” Leo said while thanking them for their presence. “We lift you up in prayer. And recognize in you God’s chosen ones.”

The pallium was officially conferred on the Archbishop by the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič. The pallium, a white liturgical vestment worn over the chasuble, was blessed by Pope Francis during Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in June this year and first given to Leo on June 29. This vestment, made of wool from two lambs blessed by the Pope on the Feast of St. Agnes each year, is bestowed upon archbishops having metropolitan jurisdiction.

In his message, Jurkovič highlighted the significance of the pallium and the burdens of the episcopal office. He said it symbolized Leo’s unity with the Apostolic See and duty towards the flock entrusted to his ministry. 

“We may seek in the ministry of St. Michael, a trajectory for the ministry of the Metropolitan of Toronto, and of every bishop. St. Michael is recognized as the protector of God’s people,” said Jurkovič, reminding Leo and the other bishops to become “true guardian angels of the Church.”

Leo was installed as Archbishop of Toronto on March 25, succeeding Cardinal Thomas Collins. Prior to this, he served as the Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal. He has also been in the diplomatic service to the Holy See and worked in multiple apostolic nunciatures around the world.

As the metropolitan archbishop he is also the ecclesiastical provincial for the Dioceses of Hamilton, London, St. Catharines and Thunder Bay. 

In his concluding message, St. Catharines’ Bishop Gerard Bergie assured Leo of the prayers and support of the auxiliary bishops. 

“I believe that you Archbishop Leo, in your role as metropolitan archbishop, will experience a degree of suffering. You will have to take up your Cross each day. And willingly lay down your life for the sheep you serve so well, symbolized by the wool of the pallium you wear around your neck.”

Meanwhile, Bergie expressed confidence in Leo’s able authority and solicitude while humourously remarking, “Under your strong leadership, I may be a suffragan. But I won’t be suffering.”

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