OTTAWA - Over the years, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has come to appreciate the depth of Archbishop Thomas Collins’ scholarship, his love for the Scriptures, his joy in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and his courage in professing his faith in the public square.

Though Prendergast had crossed paths many times with Collins, it wasn’t until the two were in Rome together in 1999 to receive the pallium that they began to know each other. The pallium is a wool band the Holy Father presents to Metropolitan Archbishops as a sign of their jurisdiction in the Universal Church and of their closeness to the Pope.

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The most important duty of a cardinal is to elect the Pope, but the responsibilities of the College of Cardinals have steadily evolved over the centuries. Cardinals are personally selected by the Pope. They give counsel to the Pope, contribute to the governance of the Church and act as papal envoys. Some are officers of the Roman Curia while many serve as bishops of major diocese around the world. Cardinals have been responsible for electing popes since 1059. They remain eligible to vote until age 80 and the number of voting cardinals is limited to 120.

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When Archbishop Thomas Collins accepts the ring and biretta from Pope Benedict XVI he will be a cardinal priest — the middle rank between cardinal deacons and cardinal bishops. Some time after the ceremony he will also receive a titular church in Rome.

Dividing the College of Cardinals into bishops, priests and deacons can be a tad confusing, given that all cardinals must receive episcopal ordination upon being named to the college if they aren’t already bishops. The internal ranking of cardinals reflects a number of historical precedents.

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VATICAN CITY - In part to avoid giving the impression that becoming a cardinal is a sacrament or quasi-sacrament, Pope Benedict XVI will use a revised, streamlined prayer service to create 21 new cardinals Feb. 18.

In previous years, the installation ceremony consisted of the consistory on Saturday where the new cardinals received their red hats and the assignment of their titular churches in Rome, followed by a Mass on Sunday where the Pope presented each new cardinal with a ring as “the sign of dignity, pastoral care and the most solid communion with the See of Peter.”

This time, the new cardinals will receive their hats, rings and assignments during the Feb. 18 ceremony. They still will celebrate Mass with the Pope the next day. At the beginning of the Mass, the first of the new cardinals — Cardinal-designate Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples — will express thanks to the Pope on behalf of the group.

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Just 15 Canadian bishops have ever been elevated into the College of Cardinals, and only five of them have been from English Canada.

So Feb. 18 will indeed be historic as Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins becomes Thomas Cardinal Collins, Canada’s 16th cardinal. Pope Benedict XVI will present Collins with a gold ring and the emblematic red adornments of a cardinal — the zucchetto and biretta — and the celebrations will begin.

Despite its grand Catholic church at the top of the hill, Guelph, Ont., is a modest place and home to modest people.

A little bit of Guelph’s heroic modesty lurks in the tabernacle of Our Lady Immaculate Church up on the hill. Somehow in the 1970s the tabernacle door was damaged such that it no longer locked. It was replaced by a more modern tabernacle that some in the parish thought conflicted with their church’s neogothic architecture.

“It was an ugly, monstrous looking thing,” declares John Valeriote, lawyer, amateur historian and stalwart of Guelph’s Catholic community.

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A consistory for new cardinals is a serious affair. Forgive me then for telling a story about Thomas Christopher Cardinal-designate Collins that is less than serious, but with a serious point about the man. Which is how Toronto’s new cardinal usually does it himself — serious substance in a man who does not take himself too seriously.

On Feb. 18, Collins will receive the red hat, a cardinal’s biretta fashioned from watered silk. One of my first encounters with him involved another hat — a toque, to be precise.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza