With the passing in January of Archbishop Tartaglia, the Church in Scotland awaits a new Archbishop of Glasgow.
Whilst it may seem as if the nearly year-long wait for Archbishop Tartaglia’s successor is abnormal, it is not unheard of. For example, from the death of Archbishop John Maguire on the 14 October 1920, Glasgow went without an Archbishop until 24 February 1922 when Donald Mackintosh took up the position – totalling at 16 months and 11 days.
Whilst the absence of an Archbishop is often talked about, the process by which he is being chosen is not.
Each diocese is organised together under the direction of an Archdiocese, called a metropolitan province. Within every three years, the bishops of a province update a private list of priests who would be suitable for an unspecified position of bishop.
This list may include priests of religious orders, as was the case with Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen, who was the superior of the Benedictine Abbey at Pluscarden.
When a position is vacated, such as in the case of the retirement or death, the bishops will again have the chance to alter the list.
Following this, the list will be sent to the Apostolic Nuncio of Great Britain. Along with conducting his own investigation of the diocese and his preferences (called a ‘terna’), he will then send it to Rome. Because of the importance of an Archbishop, the Nuncio’s suggestions will likely be made up of bishops currently serving.
Finally, the Congregation for Bishops will meet with the Pope. Here, the reports and lists are presented to the Holy Father and he may choose from them, however he is not bound to. He may even ask the Nuncio to prepare a new list of candidates, if he finds it insufficient.
The Pope’s decision then goes through the Congregation. The Nuncio will then inform the Pope’s choice, who may refuse if he has good reason, but this is uncommon. The announcement date is set, which is generally less than a month away.
Then, within three months of his nomination, we will have a new Archbishop of Glasgow.