archbishop-collins

Thomas Collins, born in Guelph, Ont., was ordained a priest in 1973. ((Courtesy of Archdiocese of Edmonton))

Pope Benedict XVI has named a new archbishop to lead Roman Catholics in a large part of southern Ontario.

Monsignor Thomas Collins, who is Archbishop of Edmonton, will take over the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Vatican announced on Saturday.

Collins, 59, replaces retiring Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, who is 76.

"I have no doubt that he will be a responsible steward of the diocese, a faithful shepherd who will guide his flock for many years to come," said Ambrozic.

"I thank God for the privilege to serve as archbishop and offer gratitude to the clergy and laity who have supported me during my time in the archdiocese of Toronto. Be assured that you will always remain close to my heart and in my prayers."

Collins said he was "deeply honoured" to be called tolead the archdiocese of Toronto, which he described asone of the most diverse dioceses in the world.

Collins was born in Guelph, Ont., and was ordained a priest in 1973 for the diocese of Hamilton, west of Toronto.

He went on to serve in various posts, including rector of St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont., from 1995 to 1997.

In 1997, he was ordained a bishop, transferring to Edmonton in 1999.

The Archdiocese of Toronto, established in 1842,is home to 1.6 million Catholics in 223 parishes.

It covers an area that stretches from the shores of Lake Ontario north to Georgian Bay. It includes the City of Toronto and the surrounding regions of Peel, York and Durham, as well as Simcoe County north of the city.

Collins' ceremony of installation will take place in early 2007.

The College of Consultors of the Archdiocese of Toronto will convene on Monday to elect an administrator to govern church affairs for the interim.