Cathedral overflowing with those paying tribute to late cardinal

  • August 31, 2011

A line of those hoping to offer prayers for Cardinal Ambrozic at his funeral mass Aug 31st.TORONTO - More than 1,000 people gathered to pay tribute to the life and service of Toronto’s late Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic at his Aug. 31 funeral Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral.

Parishioners like Margaret Rose came to offer prayers for the late cardinal. Rose, 73, was first in a long line of about 200 people hoping for public seating. She arrived close to three hours before the funeral was set to begin.

“I came out of respect. He was our (cardinal) for 16 years,” she said while holding a rosary and recalling how the cardinal loved to shake people’s hands after Sunday Mass. “I’ll spend five hours here if I have to.”

Due to renovations at the Cathedral, seating was limited to about 800 people. About half the people in line got a seat, with about 200 more praying outside the church.

Several dignitaries attended the funeral, including federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

“(The late Cardinal Ambrozic) was to the point. He spoke deliberately, which I thought admirable,” Flaherty said.

Ontario Lt. Gov. David Onley recalled Cardinal Ambrozic’s final years of struggle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

Due to renovations at St. Michael's Cathedral, seating was limited to about 800 people, leaving over 200 to pray outside the church.“I think what he demonstrated was the triumph of faith. That’s why I think there’s such a tremendous outpouring,” said Onley.

Millie, a 65-year-old nurse who was born in Slovenia, said she felt connected to the cardinal. “For me, it’s special because he comes from the same country I do,” she said.

Cardinal Ambrozic’s work with immigrant communities was not lost on Teresita Manlapaz, 70, who came to Canada from the Philippines.

“He had a compassionate heart for refugees and immigrants,” she explained.

Mimi Poraz, 65, a retired midwife, visited Cardinal Ambrozic during his final years at Providence Healthcare. She recalled how the late cardinal had a statue of St. Thomas More in his room at the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence, a long-term care facility named in his honour.

For Orim R.M. Brimsacle, 74, of Saint John, N.B., the cardinal was an effective spiritual leader. Brimsacle was visiting a relative in Toronto and decided to line up for the Mass. He met Cardinal Ambrozic several years ago when the cardinal was Toronto’s auxiliary bishop.

“He seemed to get the job done without being too showy,” he explained.

Andy Stratford, who was near the end of the line, called Cardinal Ambrozic “one of the best cardinals in the world. He was very good for the people.” Stratford, 77, came to the church with a walker and said he was determined not to miss the funeral.

Constable Al D’Silva was among those who remained standing throughout the one-and-a-half-hour Mass in the Cathedral’s courtyard.

“I felt it important to pay respect to a man who served our faith community so faithfully for so many years,” he said.

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