It’s been a busy first nine months for Toronto Archbishop Francis Leo as he has gotten to know his flock. It’s been a whirlwind, meeting parishioners and religious throughout Canada’s largest archdiocese as he gets to know the ins and outs of his new role. It has led to his first pastoral letter, issued Jan. 1, about how to make the Kingdom of God a reality. Photo courtesy the Archdiocese of Toronto

Seeking God’s Kingdom in Toronto

  • January 12, 2024

“Oh, the places you’ll go! You’ll be seeing great sights!”

Dr. Seuss wrote these words in the last children’s book he composed and illustrated before passing away in 1991. The celebrated literary visionary did not have Archbishop Francis Leo on his mind when crafting his meditation about life’s peaks and valleys. Nevertheless, this excerpt impeccably encapsulates the current Archbishop of Toronto’s first nine months on the job. 

Leo has witnessed and heard much during his industrious travels throughout the Greater Toronto Area. He’s toured parishes, visited schools and explored non-profits serving marginalized and vulnerable populations. These engagements offered the Montreal product opportunities to converse but, perhaps more importantly, occasions to observe God at work throughout Canada’s biggest Catholic community.

The 52-year-old told The Catholic Register these enlightening experiences were invaluable in helping him craft his first pastoral letter, Seeking the Kingdom of God Above and Beyond All Other Things, released on New Year’s Day. The letter is for the people of God in Toronto. 

“My nine months of intense travelling and meeting, listening, questioning and observing gave me these encounters, gave me a lot to think and pray about and provided me with reflections that I wanted to share with the people on the theme of the Kingdom of God,” said Leo. “The Kingdom of God is front and centre of Christ’s preaching. Fundamentally, Matthew 6 (expressed), ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.’ ”

Acknowledging “there are many unclear understandings of this mysterious reality we are called to enter into, to embody, spread, strengthen and seek,” Leo said he felt a duty as a teacher to clarify how Scripture and Roman Catholic tradition reveal the Kingdom. He also beheld “glimpses and seeds” up close and personal. 

“I’ve been around visiting the schools, health centres, social services, parishes, religious orders,” said Leo, “speaking to family and the youth about their questions and struggles. I’ve witnessed the wonderful things the parish teams, volunteers and ministers do, the celebrated liturgies, how the refugees and migrants are being taken care of and how vocations in the plural are promoted. And the vast linguistic and cultural diversity in the archdiocese and how we are engaged in society’s issues and problems.”

Manifesting the Kingdom of God even more is the mission for Leo and the archdiocese in 2024. In Seeking the Kingdom of God Above and Beyond All Other Things, Leo stated that the faithful can turn to the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium for guidance on achieving this aspiration. The dogmatic constitution of the Church outlines six aspects of the Kingdom for every Catholic to ponder and direct their energy towards each day.

Those six facets are truth, life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace. Leo wrote about how each is currently at work and delineated some significant challenges preventing the further spread of these virtues throughout the archdiocese and beyond.

For example, in his examination of truth, the Toronto archbishop praised the parents who are “selflessly striving to bring up their children in the truths of our Catholic faith.” He also commended educators demonstrating a “commitment to imparting solid Catholic education and the life-giving teachings of our Catholic Church as well as the truth of who we are as male and female in the complex universe in which we live.”

However, Leo wrote, “There are lamentable instances also, which we unfortunately experience even daily, that are not filled with the truth of God, and which need to be eradicated.” Unmasking “the emptiness of nihilism, the secularist mindset, the various forms of relativism we read in so many publications and hear in so many conversations” is the way of extinguishing “destructive attitudes that are not the way of Christ.”

Leo said the archdiocese can abide in the Kingdom of God if every member strives for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and encounters Him through prayer, Scripture, sacraments, Mary and supporting those in need.

The Register specifically asked Leo about convincing his flock to better engage with the Word of God. After all, academic studies and surveys perennially reveal that Catholics lag well behind other Christian denominations in reading the Bible. He defines this task as “crucial and vital.”

“When we read the Scriptures in a prayerful and faith-filled way, the Lord teaches our heart,” said Leo. “We can never stress enough the encounter with Christ through and in His Word. His Word proclaimed during Sunday Mass, His Word that we read piously, respectfully, religiously, lovingly and with faith in our own homes. There are online courses in Bible studies, commentaries, the Lectio Divina and other great resources to appreciate and get to know more about the Word of God. This is what we need to look into during 2024 in a prayerful way.”

Page 25 of the 31-page pastoral letter provides 12 suggestions — a proposal for each month of the year — about how to make the Kingdom of God a reality in the archdiocese. Recommendations include acknowledging “Christ’s eternal and lasting Kingship,” “loving those Jesus loved,” allowing daily prayer and the Word of God to “nourish, heal and empower us” and engaging “in the spiritual and temporal works of mercy, charity, justice and peace.”

Leo wished to relay to Toronto Catholics that he “is pleased to take note of the beauty of the Kingdom being present in our archdiocese” and express gratitude “to the people of God in what they are doing and keep on doing it even more.”

To read Seeking the Kingdom of God Above and Beyond All Other Things, visit

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