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The reluctant Cardinal who put Jesus first

September 2, 2011
He was an apostle who lived by his simple motto: Jesus is Lord. This is how the Archbishop of Toronto described his predecessor, the late Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, in his homily on Wednesday morning. Archbishop Thomas Collins presided over the Cardinal’s funeral in St. Michael's Cathedral.
The Cathedral was overflowing with 1000 mourners. Representatives of all levels of government attended, including the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and the federal finance minister. Toronto mayor Rob Ford issued a statement describing the Cardinal as “a caring, compassionate resident of our city.” He noted his role in hosting World Youth Day in 2002, which “stands out as a cultural milestone in our city’s history.” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty added that the Cardinal lived “with devotion, conviction, and to the fullest.”
Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal was among the over 30 Canadian bishops who paid their respects. The president of the Slovenian bishops’ conference was also present, owing to Cardinal Ambrozic’s place of birth. After the funeral, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa remarked that the Cardinal was particularly reflective of the city he shepherded, due to his immigrant roots.
“He was someone who suffered the ravages of the Second World War,” remembered Archbishop Prendergast. “He was a displaced person with all of the stigma attached to that. But he was also a man of great faith. He saw the Lord calling him and he said yes.”
Cardinal Ambrozic led the Archdiocese of Toronto for 16 years prior to his retirement in 2006. In his final years, he suffered from a rare degenerative condition called progressive supranuclear palsy.
Since his death on Friday, family, friends and fellow clergy have been reflecting on his legacy. He was a gifted academic who taught Scripture, but he was also private and didn't seek out recognition.
“He loved Christ, so he got on with the job,” recalled Suzanne Scorsone, the former director of communications for the archdiocese. He was “somewhat reluctant” to accept his appointment as a bishop, she told reporters, since he “wasn’t looking for dignities or honours.”
Though he attempted to keep his acts of charity private, the Cardinal was known to volunteer at a homeless shelter incognito. He also anonymously funded bursaries for university students.
His service was perhaps best characterized by his singular focus. This was reflected in the prayer card distributed at his funeral, which reads, “It is Jesus to whom we look. It is Jesus whom we imitate.
It is Jesus whom we follow.”
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