TORONTO -- Toronto's Thomas Cardinal Collins says he is keeping an open mind and will keep an open ear to the advice of other cardinals as he heads to Vatican City to help select a new pope.

Collins says he has no idea yet what characteristics the next pope should have, adding he will first get to know the 116 cardinals who will join him in conclave to pick the next head of the Catholic Church.

Collins says he has been intensely studying historical studies of the "awesome process" of a papal conclave, which he has never participated in before.

He says he has received emails encouraging him to express a willingness to become pope, but adds he has no interest in the church's top post.

Pope Benedict will greet Collins and the assembled College of Cardinals before officially retiring Thursday, touching off the process of deciding on his successor.

Quebec's Marc Cardinal Ouellet is considered a possible front-runner to replace Benedict, and Collins says any country that sees one of its cardinals become pope will be pleased.

"Whatever country the pope is from will probably be very happy about it," Collins said Sunday after giving his final mass in Toronto before leaving for Rome.

He told reporters he expects a dynamic selection process, as cardinals from around the world strike up relationships and jointly grapple with the succession question.

"Before I am kind of locking or casting in stone what I think are the traits essential in the next pope, I want to listen and to reflect... I think obviously we want a very holy person, a person filled with the spirit of the lord," he said.

"But the question is for now, which one is the pope for this situation with the church" currently, Collins added.

"I'm looking forward to discovering more about the situation of the church around the world before I settle in on what are the qualities precisely needed."