Cardinal Ambrozic was born in Gaberje, Slovenia, the second of the seven children of Aloysius Ambrozic and his wife, Helen Pecar. He attended elementary school in Dobrova and high school in Ljubljana. In May, 1945, the entire family fled to Austria, where they lived in the displaced persons’ camps at Vetrinj, Peggez, and Spittal an der Drau. While in these camps, he completed his high school education.
In September of 1948 the family emigrated to Canada and settled near Toronto. Shortly afterwards, he entered St. Augustine’s Seminary to study philosophy and theology. On June 4, 1955, he was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto by His Eminence James C. Cardinal McGuigan.
The first year of his priesthood he served as Curate at St. Teresa’s Parish in Port Colborne, Ontario. He then taught Latin for a year at St. Augustine’s Seminary, Toronto. The years 1957-1960 were devoted to postgraduate studies in Rome, where he received a Licentiate in Theology at the Angelicum and a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
Returning to Toronto, he taught scripture at St. Augustine’s Seminary from 1960-67. In 1967 he began further studies in Germany, obtaining a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Würzburg in 1970.
From 1970-76 he was professor of New Testament exegesis at the Toronto School of Theology, serving also as Dean of Studies at St. Augustine’s Seminary from 1971-76. From 1971-75 he was a member of the Archdiocesan Senate of Priests.
He was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto on May 27, 1976. His responsibilities within the Archdiocese included pastoral care of the Central Region and of the ethnic communities. During the school year 1984-85 he made a pastoral visitation to all 43 of the Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese in order to strengthen and support the religious education programs. He was a member of the Christian Education Commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and was active in the revision of the Canadian Catechism. He was elected as one of four Bishops to represent Canada at the 1990 Synod on the Formation of Priests.
He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop on May 22, 1986. He became Archbishop of Toronto on March 17, 1990.
A member of the Theology Commission, he also served as a member of the Pastoral Team of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and as Chairman of the Commission for Migrants.
He was appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in June, 1990; to the Congregation for Clergy in February, 1991; to the Pontifical Council for Culture in 1993; and to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in 1999. He was appointed by the Holy See as one of the Canadian delegates to the 1994 Synod on the Consecrated Life.
He was named Cardinal by Pope John Paul II on 18 January 1998, and invested on 21 February 1998. He participated in the Conclave that led to the election of Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005. On 15 December 2007, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ambrozic as Archbishop of Toronto in accordance with the Code of Canon Law which fixes the age of retirement for bishops at 75.
He has published The Hidden Kingdom: A Redaction-Critical Study of the References to the Kingdom of God in Mark’s Gospel (Washington, D.C., 1972), Remarks on the Canadian Catechism (Toronto, 1974), Oce, posveceno bodi tvoje ime (Tinje, Austria, 1980), Oce, zgodi se tvoja volja (Ljubljana , 1996), and many articles of both a professional and popular nature. He writes a monthly column in The Catholic Register.