The first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis was marked by the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland at a Mass in St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow. The Mass was attended by, as Archbishop Tartaglia humorously described it, as many bishops of Scotland (active and Emeritus) as have been together at one time in ages, as well as Papal Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini, priests and religious, and representatives from agencies of the Bishops’ Conference, other churches and civic bodies.
The music of the Mass was supported by the Archdiocesan Choir, the St. Mungo Singers, who provided a selection of liturgical music while the congregation gathered for the service. As the bishops processed to the sanctuary, they then led the congregation in singing the processional “Grace to you and Peace”, followed by the very appropriate “The Church’s One Foundation”
After a brief welcome from Archbishop Tartaglia, the Penitential Rite was sung. The Liturgy of the Word was that of the 4th Sunday of Lent, and the psalm (Psalm 22) would have brought back memories to many of the Mass at Bellahouston for Pope Benedict’s visit.
Before his homily, Archbishop Tartaglia repeated his welcome, particularly to members of religious orders and those who worked for the various agencies of the Bishops’ Conference, and took the opportunity to thank them for all that they did. He noted that representatives of other dioceses were present, including a busload from Aberdeen who had come with Bishop Gilbert. He also had a special mention for Bishop Stephen Robson whose first visit it was to Glasgow since his installation as Bishop of Dunkeld, and Bishop Keenan, making his return to his home diocese for the first time since his episcopal ordination. (The congregation gave both bishops a round of applause). He expressed Archbishop Cushley’s apologies as he was unable to be at the Mass, due to his attendance at Confirmations in the Borders.
Turning to the Gospel in his homily, the Archbishop described the story of Jesus’ encounter with the blind man as a classic of John’s Gospel. For the blind man, being given his sight must have been a wonderful thing – a contemporary example was the recent news story of the woman being given back her hearing. The deeper message was the blind man’s ability to see Jesus as saviour with the eyes of faith.
At Easter, many adults will come to church and profess in turn their faith like the man born blind. This is a welcome sign of God’s presence and favour in our world, and also a great sign that Jesus and his church continue to attract people. We too are called at Easter to renew our baptismal promises, and jesus will meet each of us just as surely as he did the blind man.
This first anniversary, he continued, is of the election of a Pope who has given us so much to smile about. His simplicity and humility are so refreshing, but he is not all that interested in his approval rates in the media but about talking about Jesus. The Pope tells us that we need to let Jesus open our eyes to the poor in the world and to reach out to them. His is a compelling message that we need to share the joy of the Gospel, to be missionaries in our words and in our lives. This is a challenging vision, and he has put the family at the centre of this new evangelisation, as the theme for the Bishops’ Synod which is about to take place. We thank God for Pope Francis, said the Archbishop – may he continue to open our eyes to the Lord and to the most needy of our brothers and sisters.
The congregation responded to this message with a wholehearted singing of the Creed (in the plainchant Credo 3 setting). The Intercessions which followed invited all to pray for Pope Francis and the Bishops, for the Church, those who work with and support the poor (such as our own SCIAF), and for all present at the Mass.
At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Mennini spoke briefly to thank the Bishops for making the event possible, and all present. He recalled Pope Francis’ words on the urgent need for people to see faith alive, and for us to bring the Gospel values seen in Jesus to our world. Finally he asked that we pray for the Pope and the Bishops.
The Mass ended on a joyful note with the singing of “God, we Praise You” a hymn of hope and praise with which to go out to live the values of the Gospel as the Pope has asked. In the Eyre Hall afterwards, there was the opportunity to meet and chat with the Bishops over tea on what had been an uplifting occasion.