The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland marked the 5th Anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI with a Mass at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Glasgow on 21 March 2010. In addition to the Bishops and the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Muñoz, there were civic representatives, members of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and representatives of other churches, as well as a children’s choir from St. Anne’s Primary and the St. Mungo Singers to assist with the music of the liturgy.

St. Anne's Primary choir sing as the congregation gather

As the congregation gathered, the children sang “Let there be Love” and “Lord of the Dance”, and the St. Mungo Singers provided further musical reflections, including Catherine Walker’s “Great God, be near me”, the Wesley motet “Lead me, Lord” and Casciolini’s “Istorum Enim”.

The Mass began with the procession of the Bishops, the Nuncio and clergy to the sanctuary as the congregation joined in the processional “Grace to you, and peace” , continuing into “The Church’s One Foundation”.

Archbishop Conti gave the homily. Reflecting on the history of the Church in Glasgow , and Scotland generally, he noted the impact of the Reformation, whose 450th Anniversary will be marked this year, on Scottish society and the legacy of division it had left. However he pointed out the significant change in spirit now in Scotland which is seen in the development of the ecumenical movement. A century ago, the Edinburgh Conference had recognised that the divisions in the Church were impeding the spread of the Gospel. He gave thanks for the progress made since then and, quoting the Isaiah reading of the day, said that there was indeed now no need to recall the past.

However he expressed concern regarding a new threat of rupture which attempts to exclude the voice of faith from public debate, ignoring the fact that a host of issues raise ethical questions for which the Church’s social teaching can give guidance. The Church and its members have a legitimate expectation of having their voices heard. His challenge was that the Church should be free to inspire and set people free from political ideology to see life whole.

As the Mass continued with the Preparation of the gifts, the St. Mungo Singers led the congregation in singing the classic Lenten hymn, “O Sacred Head”. Later, as the capacity congregation received communion, the choirs provided a mix of congregational and choral music to accompany the Communion procession, the children singing the well-known “Panis Angelicus”, and the St. Mungo Singers the less familiar but beautiful “Sacris Solemniis” (of which Panis Angelicus is the second verse!).

At the end of the service, Archbishop Muñoz thanked everyone present for marking the anniversary so well. Referring to the coming Papal visit, he made the point that it should be seen as not just a visit to strengthen his brethren in the Church in Scotland but also as an opportunity to spread the Gospel. He asked that people pray for the Pope and the Bishops and also, in this Year of the Priest, for vocations.

The Mass ended with the Newman hymn “Praise to the Holiest”, an appropriate choice in this year when Cardinal Newman is to be beatified.