Collins: Serving locally, giving universally

2012-02-17 Vatican Radio

“God sent Tom Collins to Toronto at the right moment to build on what was there, but also to take us to a new level”, says Father Thomas Rosica, CSB.Charged by Pope Benedict in 2006 to lead the nations largest diocese, Canada’s newest member of the College of Cardinals, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, found time in a hectic pre-consistory schedule to drop by Vatican Radio.

And the topics on his mind? Everything from St. John Fisher to Cardinal Henry Manning, from the debt we owe to modern day martyrs to visiting Ireland's wounded Church, from encouraging Lectio divina to encouraging believers of all religions to take thier place in society. And of course the honour and gratitude he feels at being counted among the Pope’s closest collaborators. Listen:

“The way a local bishop best serves the universal Church is by serving his local Church that has been entrusted to his care, that’s our prime responsibility”, he told Emer McCarthy, encapsulating how he sees his contribution to the College of Cardinals.

“The challenges facing the Church are different depending largely on geography”, he said. “In some parts of the Church the challenge is persecution and they don’t have time in those situations to be quibbling about details of various things. They’re facing dying for Christ. This is fundamental witness to the Lord”.

Canada, and in particular Toronto, notes the Cardinal, has welcomed many immigrants and refugees with larges groups of Christians who have fled from the Middle East. Their witness he notes, “is very healthy for people in more comfortable countries and it’s a great enrichment for the Archdiocese of Toronto, where we have people in our parishes whose relatives have been shot for Christ. It certainly wakes you up. And we try and encourage local Christians to help support their brothers and sisters who have decided to stay in their own country despite it all”.

Instead he adds, “our danger… is of being corrupted by a cynical world. My own local area, we are not facing persecution but different challenges such as this idea that religious people should keep quiet, keep their head down, you know if you want to pray just go off to your Churches, that on the key issues of life we simply don’t have a contribution. I simply think that is not true. I think that we who do contribute enormously in those areas– and I’m not talking about having a theocracy where the Church dictates everything – where we do have a contribution to make, where we are part of the picture, issues such as euthanasia, the protection of human life, that’s important, that’s practical, that’s human, that’s a place where we need to speak out and that’s the social teaching of the Church”.

Lectio divina has also been a focal point for this pastor, who sees it as key to bringing about a new spiritual springtime for Toronto Catholics. The biblical scholar whose doctrinal thesis focused on Apocalypse as a “book of hope”, has not only written books about this ancient tradition of prayer but made a series of TV programmes for Canada's Catholic Salt + Light Television network to help bring it closer to home for Catholics.

“His creativity, his use of media and modern technology…It’s not only that because than can be extremely superficial…but he uses those things to evangelize. That’s the key” said Father Rosica, CSB. “He’s a breath of fresh air; he’s a shot in the arm; he’s a courageous leader, he’s close to people, he’s just what we needed,” Fr. Rosica concludes.

The multifaceted abilities of the Archbishop of Toronto have not escaped Rome’s attention either. In 2011 he was one of the Apostolic Visitators appointed by Pope Benedict to visit the Church in Ireland, specifically to the diocese of Cashel and Emly in the South, an experience he found “humbling” and yet surprisingly also “full of hope”; “The universal Church can really learn from the painful lessons of the Church in Ireland”, he says.