‘Much-loved’ Archbishop Conti mourned

Tributes have been paid to Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti of Glasgow who died on Tuesday evening after a short illness.

Archbishop William Nolan of Glasgow said the death of his predecessor ‘would be felt not just in the Archdiocese of Glasgow, but across Scotland and beyond’. 

“He was a much-loved figure, a man of great energy and pastoral zeal, who loved the Church and loved the people in his care,” Archbishop Nolan said.

Archbishop Conti died peacefully on Tuesday evening, after a short illness, at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. He was 88 and had been a priest for 64 years. He was also a bishop for 45 years, the longest serving in the United Kingdom.

Born in Elgin, he was ordained a priest for the diocese of Aberdeen in 1958, becoming bishop there 19 years later.    

Another of his successors,  the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen said he had ‘many fond memories of him during his 25 years as Bishop of Aberdeen. Although he became Archbishop of Glasgow in 2002 his ties to the North East of Scotland remained strong. His interest in and knowledge of Scotland’s Catholic history was well known and his commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of the church was unwavering’.

Bishop Gibert said that in retirement he had been ‘a source of great wisdom and pastoral support to his successors both in Glasgow and Aberdeen’.

“His work in ecumenism and interfaith matters as well as his affection for the Italian community in Scotland were among his defining characteristics,” he said. “On behalf of the Bishops of Scotland, we commend his soul into the hands of God and pray that he may enjoy eternal rest.”

Archbishop Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh said his fellow Archbishop had ‘been a very visible and active leader in our Church for nearly five decades’.

“He was already Bishop of Aberdeen when our bishops famously condemned nuclear weapons in 1982; when we welcomed Pope St John Paul to Scotland, also in 1982; and when Pope Benedict made his historic state visit, starting in Edinburgh, in 2010,” he said. “He was a churchman who loved the Church’s people, its history, and he celebrated its aesthetic and cultural roots. He grew to love Glasgow, his adopted city, and the people of Glasgow returned that affection, although he remained very fond of Aberdeen and the north east.”

“His wisdom, humour and attention to detail will be greatly missed,” he went on. “He was also a man of great dignity, and of a generous ecumenical and interfaith spirit. May he rest in peace.”

Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell said ’he continued to participate in the Church’s life and worship to the end of his earthly journey. We last saw him in Motherwell at the National Pilgrimage in honour of St Bernadette at the end of September. We thank God for his life and faithful witness, trusting he will now enjoy the joy of eternal life in Christ Our Lord’.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was saddened to hear of the death of Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti and paid tribute to ‘his extraordinary length of service as a priest and Bishop of the Catholic Church of Scotland, and his contribution to public life as Archbishop of Glasgow’.

Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “We are very saddened to learn about the death of Archbishop Mario Conti, Emeritus Archbishop of Glasgow, and extend our deepest sympathy, thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and members of the Catholic Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Archbishop Conti made an outstanding contribution to ecumenism within Scotland and internationally and we recall this with gratitude. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Former First Minister Alex Salmond said he ’knew Archbishop Conti well, first when I was a North East MP, and he was Bishop of Aberdeen, and then as Archbishop of Glasgow where he filled the large shoes of Tom Winning with such distinction’.

“Mario was a fine churchman and a source of great wisdom and sympathetic advice,” Mr Salmond said. ”As First Minister I was proud to work with him in making the visit to Scotland of Pope Benedict XVI such an outstanding success and I was with him when we received the telex from the Swiss Guard that his Holiness had left Scottish airspace and the whole occasion had proceeded without a single hitch – I can say that we were both mightily relieved!”

The Alba party leader also said that the ‘commemoration of the Arandora Star was of course something in which Mario was greatly invested and rightly so as one of our most prominent Italian Scots. Mario lived a full life of faith and will be much missed’.

Paul Sweeney, Labour MSP for Glasgow said ‘he was a kind man and a great servant to the Catholic community across Greater Glasgow. His finest legacy will be in the beautiful restoration of Glasgow Metropolitan Cathedral’. 

Director Alistair Dutton said: “Archbishop Mario was a colossal character in the church in Scotland and a great friend to SCIAF.

“He supported us as a priest and as a bishop before going on to be our Bishop President and even in retirement was a great ambassador for our work.

“Archbishop Mario leapt at every opportunity to support the work of SCIAF and we have lost a great friend. He will be sorely missed.”

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