Collins in line for cardinal's red hat

October 19, 2010
Archbishop Thomas Collins

Archbishop Thomas Collins


Former Edmonton Archbishop Thomas Collins is among the frontrunners in speculation over who will receive cardinals’ red hats when Pope Benedict names at least 19 prelates under age 80 to the College of Cardinals.

The consistory could come as soon as Nov. 18-21, a period ending with the feast of Christ the King. Or, it could come sometime in early 2011, giving the pope the opportunity to name even more new cardinals.

As archbishop of Toronto, Collins’ appointment would be no surprise. Since the elevation of Archbishop James McGuigan to the cardinalate in 1946, almost all of Toronto’s archbishops have received the red hat.

Although Collins has been head of the Toronto Archdiocese for almost four years, his appointment as a cardinal was seen as unlikely until earlier this year when his predecessor, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, turned 80 – the age at which cardinals can no longer vote for the next pope. Normally, no diocese has more than two cardinal electors.

In February, John Allen, veteran Vatican watcher for the National Catholic Reporter, added Collins to the list of those likely to be named as cardinals in the next consistory.

Marco Tosatti, writing in La Stampa of Turin, Italy, on Sept. 4 said Collins would “almost certainly” be one of the new cardinals.

Earlier this month, well-connected blogger Rocco Palmo of Philadelphia wrote that when he mentioned “the coming inevitable” red hat to Collins in a discussion, “his face turned even more scarlet than the biretta heading his way, less out of anticipation than a seeming sense of dread.”

National Post columnist Father Raymond de Souza wrote in July that Collins would likely be named a cardinal this fall.

De Souza went on to say that it is “plausible” that Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast would also receive the red hat.

The pope can appoint up to 120 cardinal electors – Pope John Paul II sometimes appointed several more – and by mid-November, the number will be down to 101. By April, the number will fall to 95 as more cardinals turn 80 years of age and lose their eligibility to take part in a conclave.

Collins, 63, would be the first former archbishop of Edmonton to become a cardinal. However, he would not be the first former Alberta prelate to receive that honour. The late Cardinal Edouard Gagnon served as bishop of St. Paul from 1969 to 1972, more than a decade before entering the College of Cardinals.

As well, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, now considered the number three ranking prelate at the Vatican, served as rector of Edmonton’s St. Joseph Seminary from 1994 to 1997.

Collins was installed as bishop of St. Paul in June 1997, only 18 months before becoming Edmonton’s archbishop. He served here until his appointment in Toronto in December 2006.

A Scripture scholar and former seminary rector in Ontario who is renowned for his abilities as a preacher and teacher, Collins has lately been receiving more than his share of international duties.

Currently representing Canada at the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, he is also involved in the apostolic visitation to the scandal-plagued Irish Church and earlier this year was named a member of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications.

Palmo, an unabashed Collins fan, lauded the Toronto prelate as “one of the most prayerful, unpretentious, generous, happy and holy prelates I’ve ever been blessed to know.”

“You’re almost as likely to find him alone, queued up for a coffee and Timbits on a run to one of downtown TO’s numerous Tim Hortons’ stands – ‘St. Timothy’s’ to the archbishop – as in the sanctuary of St. Michael’s (Cathedral).”