An archbishop for our time?

Archbishop-elect Nolan talks to Ian Dunn about what he learned as Bishop of Galloway, tackling division in the Church and the importance of solitude.

Bishop William ‘Bill’ Nolan will become Archbishop of Glasgow on Saturday the 26th February. Originally a priest of Motherwell diocese, he’s spent the last seven years as the bishop of Galloway, but now become the leader of Scotland’s largest diocese.

“I’m still taking deep breaths!” he told The Scottish Catholic just after the news became public.   “But I’m focusing on what lies ahead. I’ve got my inadequacies and my weaknesses of course but I do see a lot of positivity. I worry at times we seem to have lost that Christian vision of Hope. And we need to remember our Faith is a blessing.”

He sees setting out a positive vision was a key lesson he learned as a bishop in Galloway.

“Coming to Galloway was a major transition for me,” he recalls. “Very different to being a parish priest. You have to work through others but you can’t micromanage them. So, I’ve learned to relate to the clergy and give them freedom and respect.”

Still, he says a ‘diocese has to be given some kind of vision, we have to move forward and we have to move forward together’.

“So, you’re trying to instill unity among everyone in the diocese, and a positive vision, so that we embrace our faith, and proclaim that to the world as well.”

Convincing others to follow that vision will not be easy, as the Church wrestles with division and the aftermath of the pandemic.

“We do face division although thankfully it’s not as unsightly as in other countries, he said. “I think the Synod which is going on now offers a model that’s useful. That’s about listening to people, we’ve got to listen and everyone has to have the courage to speak out.”

Then we have the challenge of Covid.

“You know it completely changed how a lot of people practiced their faith and then were reluctant to return to Mass.’

“Obviously,” he goes on, “there was a huge psychological effect on everyone but it was very hard on priests, I think. So much of parish life is out talking to people and then there was that period where the main thing they were doing was funerals. That’s hard, and can be depressing even. So hopefully as life returns to normal, parishes will start to buzz again and that will be good for everyone.”

He recalls when churches reopened the people there ‘were just so enthusiastic, and so delighted. It really reminds you that people’s faith goes deep.  And sometimes it really doesn’t come to the surface but the seeds are still there.”

Read the full interview with Archbishop-elect Nolan in edition 9 of the Scottish Catholic.

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