I was fortunate to be one of the pilgrimage group to Rome to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Archbishop Emeritus of Glasgow Mario Joseph Conti. We are related through both of our mothers’ sides of the family, hence the reason for my attendance and also indeed, for the fact that I was able to be there at his Golden Jubilee in 2008. We were in total around 40 pilgrims, a mixture of clergy and laity with connections to the archbishop and the Archdiocese of Glasgow.
The first formal occasion was on the Wednesday morning at the Papal Audience where we were honoured to be allocated special seating on the loggia almost close enough to touch the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica and to the right hand side of the Pope Francis. We were able to see Archbishop Conti being presented to the Holy Father which was an occasion of great pride.
We also had a ringside view of the Holy Father’s return a casa at the end of the audience.
On the Thursday evening we were invited to the Pontifical Scots College where we were made to feel extremely welcome. There was a Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Conti followed by a formal reception and dinner. A welcome address was given by the Rector, Father Daniel Fitzpatrick, with a reply of thanks by the archbishop along with words of encouragement and advice to the students for the priesthood.
On the morning of Friday 26 October Archbishop Conti concelebrated mass in the church of San Marcelo al Corso where he had been ordained exactly 60 years previously. Relatives of the archbishop from Barga were able to join us for this. The archbishop was full of joy, not only for the occasion of his anniversary, but also having just concelebrated mass with Pope Francis in the Chapel of Santa Marta in St Peter’s.
At the end of Mass, Monsignor Charles Burns, the Vatican Archivist, spoke. He remembered vividly the archbishop’s ordination, which had taken place during a time sede vacante with the Conclave taking place to elect a new Pope.
During the ordination ceremony there was loud cheering outside, meaning they thought, that white smoke had emanated from the Sistine Chapel chimney. It was in fact, simply a group of noisy Napoli fans cheering as they passed the church! [for the record, Lazio vs. Napoli...no score draw, and Angelo Roncalli elected on the eleventh ballot...Pope John XXIII]
Following the service Archbishop Conti hosted a celebratory meal in a nearby restaurant with a vote of thanks then given by Monsignor Peter Smith which splendidly rounded off this truly memorable occasion.
Apart from the official events there was some spare time to visit the usual attractions and landmarks one has to see whilst in Rome. I was able to attend an early morning Mass at the Chapel of St Thomas in St Peter’s concelebrated by Father Joseph McAuley and Father Brian McNaught.
I visited as many churches as possible, and as always when in Rome one finds new churches to visit, each one seemingly more splendid than the former. On this visit the churches of San Luigi dei Francesi situated between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, and Sant’Andrea al Quirinale were, I thought truly remarkable.
For myself no visit to Rome is complete without a visit to various other locations. These include Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, the Cardinal Church of Cardinal Winning.
The Church of Santi XII Apostoli where Canon Foley was ordained, and the adjacent rather unimposing Palazzo Balestra, the home of the Stuart Family (Bonnie Prince Charlie et al) whilst they were in Rome.
And finally the Church of San Gregorio della Divina Pieta. This is the little church which was often mentioned by Canon Foley, the inscription in Hebrew and Latin above the doorway, doing little to promote Christian Jewish relations particularly as it is just across a small piazza from the Great Synagogue.
Altogether, this was truly an unforgettable experience, in a week of glorious weather. We sincerely thank Archbishop Mario for his many years of loving and dedicated service and we look forward to celebrating many more important milestones in his priesthood .