The death of Archbishop Mario came as a shock. We had only just heard that he was in hospital and then the news came that he had died. The St Mungo Singers had been looking forward to seeing him at the Ecumenical Vespers of St Margaret to be held in St Andrew’s Cathedral on 17th November. Instead we were to sing at his Funeral Vigil that evening and his funeral the following day, so at short notice, an extended rehearsal for the services was arranged.
The connection with Archbishop Mario, for some of the St Mungo Singers, went back to when he had been Bishop of Aberdeen, and had deepened when he came to Glasgow. His great interest and involvement in ecumenism meant that he was present at so many of the Glasgow Churches Together events that the St Mungo Singers supported. Indeed one of his earliest encounters with the choir was at an ecumenical service at Renfield St Stephen’ church. His involvement continued after his retirement and he regularly attended the St Mungo festival services and enjoyed also recording readings etc for Radio Alba.
It was therefore with much respect and sadness that the choir came to the services. The funeral vigil took the form of the Office for the Dead. As the congregation gathered, the choir sang and Dr Noel Donnelly played some quiet airs on the harp, including one which people suddenly realised was the Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen.
The choir sang Be still, my Soul as Archbishop Mario’s coffin was brought into the Cathedral, before leading the congregation in the Psalms, Canticle and Responsory, and Magnificat. The quiet service ended with Hail Queen of Heaven.
On the following day, the cathedral was packed as Bishops, priests and deacons, members of religious congregations, representatives from other Christian denominations and other faiths, and civic dignitaries joined representatives of the parishes of the Archdiocese for the funeral service. Bishop Gilbert of Aberdeen gave the homily, recalling Archbishop Mario’s life, talents and interests, and raising smiles at some of the memories.
The funeral finished with the Archbishop being laid to rest in the Cathedral which he had done so much to renovate.