A DESCENDANT of an immigrant family from Drogheda will be declared a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in February.
Archbishop Thomas Collins (65) of Toronto, home to Canada's biggest Catholic population, will be among the 22 new cardinals to be appointed on February 18.
'To be a member of the College of Cardinals, really, is a great honour and I'm very grateful for it,' he told the Canadian media last week.
Appointed an archbishop in 2007, he becomes the 16th Canadian cardinal in the history of the church.
A native of Guelph, Ontario, he revealed to the Drogheda Independent that his relatives left Drogheda in 1827 but he isn't sure what part of the town they come from.
'The Collins family who owned the hardware store is the same family,' he added.
The Archbishop's mother and sister visited Maurice and Monica Collins many years ago and recalled their son, Declan, who was a priest and was killed in Africa.
Although he doesn't have any connections with his Drogheda relations these days, he visited the town in 2008 on a brief visit while passing through Ireland.
Archbishop Collins was tipped to become a cardinal in 2010 but was passed over on that occasion, with many feeling that, at 63, he was too young!
He is highly regarded in Canada as an 'earthy, clear and charitable' individual, with the Pope always showing great faith and confidence in him.
He drew much comment and respect when speaking about abuse scandals in recent years, quoted in one homily as stating 'We cannot escape the horror of this by pointing out that almost all priests serve faithfully — though that fact is a grace that gives joy to the Catholic people. But even one priest gone wrong causes immense harm, and throughout the world priests have done unspeakable evil.'
He was also one of the nine bishops who visited this country to help investigate the Church's response to the sexual abuse crisis.