VATICAN CITY – A Canadian celebration took place in Rome in honour of Cardinal Thomas Collins Saturday, after the Toronto archbishop was proclaimed a cardinal by Pope Benedict.
The ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica took ninety-minutes and an estimated 8,000 people crowded in to witness the holy event.
Cardinal Collins was given his blessing and the traditional zuchetto, biretta and ring by Pope Benedict, who elevated Collins to cardinal, one of the most prestigious positions in the Catholic church.
Twenty-two officials of the Catholic church were named cardinal in the ceremony, and Collins was number twelve on the list.
The ceremony consisted of the cardinals approaching the alter, where they knelt and were blessed by Pope Benedict.
Collins was given the honourary parish of St. Patrick’s, which he will be tasked with looking over.
An honourable delegation including Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, and Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, accompanied Collins to the ceremony.
“On behalf of Canadians, I would like to congratulate His Eminence, Thomas Collins on his formal elevation today to the College of Cardinals by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. While retaining his commitment to the 1.7 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Toronto and numerous Canadian charities, organizations, and educational institutions, Cardinal Collins is now adding to his already-substantial international responsibilities,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a statement.
Several Canadian pilgrims were inside St. Peter’s, like Joan, who said she was lucky to get in.
“It was very crowded but I did get to see quite a bit, it was very lovely, very humbling,” Joan said. “It was a wonderful ceremony, very joyous and uplifting and a wonderful experience.”
For one man named Michael watching the ceremony, it was about more than just the ceremony.
“What enhanced sort of the whole experience was it’s an unbelievable building, you know it’s a work of art everywhere, the detail of the art anyway, it was just an amazing experience,” Michael said.
Cardinals are the Pope’s top advisers, the elite group of churchmen who will eventually elect his successor.
Of the 22 new appointees, 18 are under the age of 80 — raising to 125 the number of cardinals eligible to vote in the next papal conclave. Cardinals aged 80 and over are not allowed to vote on the next pope.
Collins said his new responsibilities overseas won’t take him away from his duties at home. He said he’ll stay in charge of the Archdiocese of Toronto while he juggles his new duties.
He said the key to being a good leader for the universal church is to be a good bishop at home.
About 200 Catholics will be on hand to watch Collins don his red hat, as well as a federal delegation led by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.