Toronto's Archbishop Sees a Religious Resurgence Afoot
Cardinal Ambrozic Leads a Complex, Multicultural Flock
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TORONTO, JULY 14, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic oversees one of the most diversified dioceses in the world.
"My Church is really very interesting," said the archbishop of Toronto, a city where Mass is celebrated in 29 languages in 232 parishes. The city is preparing for John Paul II's visit at the end of this month.
Mass attendance has been increasing in Toronto, a rarity in the West. The lowest level of attendance was registered in 1994, when 33% went to Sunday Mass, and 5% attended only twice a month.
Today, those percentages have increased to 35% and 12%, respectively. That means 47% of Catholics go to Mass at least once a month, an average considerably higher than in Europe. Among Toronto's young people the rate is estimated at 42%.
"Studies by neutral sociologists state this," Cardinal Ambrozic said.
The Church that will host World Youth Day 2002 reflects the city's character: complex, multicultural and multi-ethnic, but united by the same faith in Jesus Christ.
The cardinal recalled his arrival in Canada when he was a child, exiled from Slovenia.
"It was 1948 and the Catholic Church was of solid Irish traditions," he said. "Then the waves of migration began, first with the Italians, Portuguese and Polish, then with the Latin Americans and Filipinos. Sometimes I wonder what the dominant spirituality will be in the future, but it is a question that is impossible to answer."
The cardinal added: "Studies point to a general return to predominant churches: Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic, and a decline of the sects."
"The news surprises me and makes me happy," he continued. "I remember a meeting with the Archbishop of Seoul: He spoke to me of his 60,000 conversions a year, and I asked him what they did. He replied: 'I have not the least idea, because we are not that wonderful or good.'"
"I could give the same answer now, also because secularism has not disappeared -- it goes in waves," Cardinal Ambrozic observed. "However, just as Communism has been exhausted, the same will happen to the Enlightenment experience."
Asked about the challenge of Islam in Canada, he said, "Worried? No, Islam, with its 'seriousness with God' is not just negative, as secularization isn't, with its attention to human rights. In these months we have seen that, for the Muslims of Toronto and, naturally, for the Protestants, the Pope today is a father, a great religious leader, not a danger."
He also talked about the World Youth Day cross that toured Canada, inspiring a surprising interest in people, who prayed before it.
"Yes, we did not expect so much enthusiasm," Cardinal Ambrozic said. "However, ours is a very abstract theology, which favors allegorical readings. As young people are conditioned by television, for them the image is already substance. And the cross speaks of the presence of the sacred, of Jesus."
The cardinal said in summary: "We are a complex country and a complex Church. We live together as in a large family in which at times it costs us much effort to understand one another, but it continues to be our family."