Pope names Toronto archbishop as cardinal

12/31/1969 07:00 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST

The Pope has named Toronto Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins as one of 22 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican announced Friday morning.

The 64-year-old Collins, ordained as a priest in 1973 and appointed archbishop of Toronto in 2007, told CBC's Heather Hiscox that he learned about his appointment after receiving word on his BlackBerry to call the Pope's representative.

"This is indeed a great honour and I’m indeed overwhelmed," Collins said early Friday, adding that he will continue as archbishop of the Toronto archdiocese.

Cardinals are the Pope's closest aides, but only those under age 80 can take part in the election of a new pope following the death of the current pontiff, Benedict.

Other cardinals named Friday include prelates from New York, Hong Kong, Berlin, Prague, Florence, Italy, and some key Vatican offices.

Collins, who was born in Guelph, Ont., becomes the 16th Canadian cardinal in the history of the church.

Only two other cardinals are alive — Marc Ouellet of Quebec City and Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal, CBC freelance journalist Sabina Castelfranco reported from Rome.

After becoming Toronto archbishop, Collins spent some time studying in Rome, obtaining a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He noted that he has met the Pope numerous times, including in 2006 when he was archbishop of Edmonton.

Role of cardinal to serve 'whole church'

Although his role as a cardinal would include helping choose a new pope, Collins said he will also be assigned to different departments, committees and commissions relating to the "whole church," so will be making frequent trips to Rome.

"The role of cardinal is one of service for the wider church — that of course is a great honour and responsibility," he said.

"I love being a priest, I love being a bishop — it’s just an awesome experience to receive that call from the Lord."

Benedict, elected in a secret conclave in 2005, has named more than half of the so-called cardinal electors who will choose a new leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.

The ceremony, or consistory, to install the 22 new cardinals will be held on Feb. 18 at the Vatican. It will be Benedict's fourth consistory since his election six years ago.

Following the consistory, there will be 214 cardinals, including 125 under age 80.