Due to the coronavirus pandemic the August edition of Flourish is not being printed and is available in digital form only. You can read selected stories online on this page or download a PDF of the whole paper.

New start for Cardross


One of the longest-running stories in the modern history of the Archdiocese came to a happy ending last month with the handing over of the former St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross to new owners.

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Arondara Star

Mgr Rossi’s wartime ordeal

The parish priest interned as an enemy alien
Read more…


Joy as Mass is restored

Parishioners return to first Sunday Masses since lockdown
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“Hate crime”

Archbishop’s fears on free speech

Concern over new Bill
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The current emergency means our churches have had to close, but costs remain and some parishes are in a difficult situation. If your own circumstances allow it, please consider helping us by donating £5 during this worrying time. The Archdiocese has set up a system whereby you can simply text RCARCHGLA to 70085 to donate £5. Please share this emergency donation option with others, especially those who may be anxious because they normally contribute to their parish through collection envelopes. Those who use collection envelopes are asked to continue to place donations in these and deliver them to the local parish after the emergency has passed.

New start for Cardross

By Editor

One of the longest-running stories in the modern history of the Archdiocese came to a happy ending last month with the handing over of the former St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross to new owners.

A new charity, the Kilmahew Education Trust, is the new legal owner of the site.

They aim to develop it as an asset for the local community while respecting the unique archaeological status of the iconic St Peter’s building.

Announcing the transfer of ownership, Archbishop Tartaglia said: “This is a good day for the Archdiocese, for the local community and I hope for the wider Scottish community.

“Times were very different when St Peter’s Seminary was opened in the late 1960s to wide architectural acclaim. Changing requirements in priestly education, a drop in the number of seminarians and difficulties in maintaining the fabric of the building mean that the seminary had a relatively short lifespan.

“For four decades the Archdiocese has sought a new owner for the site, and finally a solution has been found. I wish the new owners every success as they develop the site and move forward to a new chapter in the history of the seminary and its estate.”

Stuart Cotton of the new charitable trust was equally enthusiastic at the news.

He said: “The Trust is delighted to take up the many challenges that exist on the Kilmahew Estate and is grateful to the Archdiocese of Glasgow for its outstanding support over the last year in facilitating the transfer of ownership and for trusting us with the honour of becoming the next custodians of this outstanding and unique heritage asset.

“There is no doubting the beauty of the Kilmahew landscape nor the atmospheric presence that surrounds the seminary complex of St. Peter’s. We simply need to develop a viable vision, with education at its core, and execute the plans that develop from that to the best of our abilities.

“In the build up to the acquisition, our Education Trust has been busy putting together an internationally-renowned team to assist us. We are currently fine-tuning our plans to enhance Kilmahew and these will be made public in due course.”

“It goes without saying that the Kilmahew Estate and St. Peter’s Seminary are of significant historical importance to the Scottish public and we are acutely aware of just how many diverse groups are stakeholders, including the local Cardross community, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Government. The next few months will see us developing relationships with these and other stakeholders and presenting our vision for Kilmahew alongside our expert team.”

“We believe our vision will provide Kilmahew with a very exciting and vibrant future whilst also respecting its outstanding heritage. We look forward to sharing our initial masterplan in due course and welcoming the public to share our experiences along the way.”

No payment was made as the Archdiocese bequeathed the estate and buildings free of charge to the Trust.

The seminary building was designed by the firm of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia, and has been described by one international architecture conservation organisation as a “building of world significance”. Brutalist in style and owing a huge debt to Le Corbusier, the seminary is widely considered to be one of the most important examples of modernist architecture in Scotland.

It was completed in 1966 just as the number of candidates entering seminary began to decline. The building never reached its full capacity of around 100 students. In February 1980 it closed. For some years it acted as a drug rehabilitation unit but despite many ideas and plans being submitted, only now, 40 years on, has a suitable long-term and viable solution been found.


Archbishop’s free speech call

Archbishop Tartaglia has called on Catholics to take action to defend freedom of speech, which may be at risk if a new Bill before the Scottish Parliament is not amended.

The Government’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill has been widely criticised by lawyers, the police and others in civic society and the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has also published a critical response.

Archbishop Tartaglia was careful to recognise the good intentions behind the legislation, but asked for greater care in drafting it so as to preserve and protect freedom of speech, especially in terms of faith and morals.

The Archbishop said: “The Government’s Bill aims to modernise, consolidate and extend existing hate crime law. While the Bishops had no argument with the principle of the Bill and with much of the content, there were nonetheless things that worried us.

“In particular, the Bill introduces a new crime of stirring up hatred. Of course stirring up hatred is morally wrong, sinful and contrary to the teaching of Jesus and his Church. We are called to love one another and respect every human being’s dignity as created in the image of God. We are called to create social unity and harmony with all people in a just and peaceful society.

“However, the Bishops expressed concerns about the lack of clarity in the Bill around definitions and the potentially low threshold for committing an offence, which could lead to wrongful accusations and vexatious claims, especially in today’s hyper-sensitive climate.”

The Archbishop continued: “We have recently seen in the media accusations of hate speech against persons who were expressing their convictions but who were manifestly not trying to stir up hatred. The bishops were asking for the language of the Bill to be more careful about protecting a just freedom of expression and the civilised exchange of views.

“The Bill also introduces a new offence of possession of inflammatory material. The Bishops expressed their concern that this offence might render the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other catechetical material vulnerable to the accusation of being inflammatory material.

“Consider the teaching of the Book of Genesis that speaks of God creating man male and female, and the Church’s teaching that sex and gender are not fluid and changeable. This teaching goes against some quite prominent orthodoxies that are around today. I worry for priests, teachers and catechists carrying out their responsibilities to the Word of God and to the teaching of the Church, that they may be scared into silence or be exposed to hate and accusation.”

Archbishop Tartaglia calls for lay Catholics to take action now to ensure that the Bill is improved before it becomes law.

He said: “The Government says there is nothing to worry about in this new Bill, and I hope that is the case. Still, I encourage Catholics to write to their MSPs to express their concern and to ask them to pay attention to the Bishops’ response to this Bill.

“Ask them to make sure this Bill is properly scrutinised, amended and tightened up before it becomes law so that everyone continues to enjoy the right to propose and argue for their convictions and beliefs in a peaceful and civil way.

“By taking this step, the Catholic community will be doing a service to the common good of the nation at large and to the process of good government itself. You may think we have enough to worry about at this time with Covid-19 on the loose among us, and this is true. At the same time, we should not allow that to distract us from other important matters that bear on our faith, and on our freedom of conscience and expression.”


News of great joy… Mass is back


Stewards welcome parishioners to Mass at Immaculate Conception, Maryhill

There was, to be clear, no little trepidation among parishioners as they prepared to return to the first Sunday Masses since Covid restrictions were imposed four months ago.

Yet despite requirements for face coverings, hand sanitizing, social distancing, numbers strictly limited by law, one-way systems and in many cases having to pre-book, the people returned and gathered together in His name.

Cautiously perhaps but, as one priest noted, the masks they wore could not disguise their joy as they once again met as a community of faith, and at last, were able to receive Communion.

Nor could Archbishop Tartaglia hide his joy. In a heartfelt homily delivered at St Andrew’s Cathedral on Sunday 19th July he said: “Today, I joyfully give thanks to God for this moment, and I look forward to when we can gather in even greater numbers, and I hope that that will not be too far away.

“Once again today, we are united in faith and prayer, and I encourage you to receive Jesus Christ our Lord into your hearts and minds in an act of deep spiritual communion.

Fr Antony Connelly looks on as young parishioners leave St Mungo’s after sanitising their hands

“It is so good to welcome you back to Mass here in St Andrew’s Cathedral. It is so good to see you even if, due to the diminished but ongoing threat of the Covid-19 virus, you are here in much reduced numbers. After four months, it is so good to celebrate Mass with a congregation present in the Church.”

And the Archbishop recalled the postponed Archdiocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes this summer. He said: “I can tell you that even though we are not there in person, arrangements have been made for our great Archdiocese of Glasgow Lourdes Candle to be carried to the Grotto where it will burn as a sign of our praise and prayer, asking our Lady of Lourdes to intercede for the sick and for all of us.”

Given that this was first time Masses were celebrated since the middle of March there were very few hitches. A number of parishes reported that some people turned up without booking where that requirement was required locally and others booked but failed to appear – so-called ‘no shows’.

And some parishioners remarked on the apparent number of free spaces once inside a church, not realising there is a legal cap of 50 attending any Mass. Smaller churches are forced to limit numbers below even that figure because of social distancing.

However priests who spoke to Flourish, recognise the need for care and precautions and were extremely positive.

Two Sunday Masses were celebrated by Father Frank Keevins, parish priest of St Mungo’s, Townhead, who said: “There was a fair bit of emotion in the church I can tell you – myself included. I didn’t think it would affect me but I must admit I did well up a bit.

“It was wonderful seeing people back in church again despite all the restrictions we will all have to live with for some time.

“Our booking systems worked well and we were able to accommodate 50 people at each Mass.”

Father Jim Lawlor of Immaculate Conception, Maryhill, said: “As a priest it was a surreal experience for me to celebrate Mass with parishioners who were wearing masks and yet when we spoke afterwards without exception people were telling me how moved they were and how happy they felt to be back receiving Communion again.”

Fr Keevins chats to parishioners at St Mungo’s after Mass, keeping a safe distance

Father Paul McAlinden, parish priest at St Augustine’s Milton, said: “It was wonderful to see faces of people I knew again instead of speaking to a camera. Everything went relatively smoothly, I’m happy to say, and the folk I spoke to afterwards said they were very moved by the experience of being back in church again.”

“I’m very grateful to everyone who made it possible.”

Father Allan Cameron, from St Gregory’s, Wyndford, said: “Speaking to parishioners afterward most said attending Mass again was a case of joy tempered with a feeling of oddness.

“The things they have been used to all their lives like singing, bringing the offertory, offering each other the sign of peace and so on have been taken away and that will be the case for some time to come.

“But the important thing is that churches are open for Mass again after such a long time.”


Mgr Rossi’s wartime ordeal

Eighty years ago last month a wartime tragedy occurred which is recalled in dramatic and beautiful form in the walled garden beside St Andrew’s Cathedral.

The sinking of the Arandora Star left a profound wound in the Italian community in Scotland. It was to help heal this wound that Archbishop Conti commissioned the Italian Cloister Garden to be a kind of antechamber to the Cathedral, a place of rest and reflection for all.

In a powerful memoir, published in news­paper form for the first time, the late Monsignor Gaetano Rossi, for many years Parish Priest of St Peter’s, Partick, recalled the fateful night he was arrested after Churchill’s order to “collar the lot”.

Every Italian citizen aged over 16 was rounded up and taken away. Many were, within a few weeks, loaded onto the former liner, the Arandora Star, for immediate deportation.

Just a few hours into its trip, the ship was sunk by a German torpedo. It was not carrying the required Red Cross symbol which would have marked it as a civilian liner carrying prisoners. Lifeboats were chained up and the civilian prisoners were locked under deck.

The tragedy happened 80 years ago last month on July 2 1940. The names of the Scots Italian prisoners who died that day appear on the marble plaque in the Cathedral Italian Cloister Garden, and the stunning central monument, with its mirrored plinths, is the world’s largest memorial to the victims.

Mgr Gaetano Rossi

At the declaration of war, all the Italians were rather shaken, and the shock was even greater when they realised that they were being interned as enemies.

They could not understand how the same people, who had been joking and laughing with them in their shops for so many years, now looked on them as dangerous enemies.

With the local people they had established many ties of friendship and even marriage, but overnight they were considered so dangerous that they had to be put in camps surrounded by barbed wire.

But the people who were responsible for running the country had already made up their minds: being Italian was equal to being Fascist, and therefore dangerous enemies. With such “dangerous enemies” in their midst there was no time to be lost. The authorities could not allow time for the “fifth column” to organize itself, and therefore the only solution was immediate and indiscriminate internment.

The Italians were lifted without delay from their families and homes without giving them time to make any arrangements. Some of them were taken into custody from their place of work, without having the possibility of saying “goodbye” to their families.

After the internment they were not allowed to communicate with the outside world for 15 days, so some families were left without any information of any kind. It was a very hard and merciless blow for those Italians who overnight found themselves on the opposite side, behind barbed wire, and treated as enemies. They had never been Fascists, but simply Italians.

My own personal case is a good example. I had arrived from Italy in September 1937 to complete my ecclesiastical studies in Scotland. I had never been a member of any Fascist organisation or group (which was obligatory in public schools), because as a student for the priesthood I was not allowed any political activity.

When war broke out between Italy and Great Britain I was on holiday in Lytham St. Annes, near Blackpool, in the company of two other priests.

About three o’clock in the morning I was wakened up by a policeman, who appeared at my bedroom door, and he ordered me to get dressed. I told him that I would like to speak to my two companions who slept in another room.

With some difficulty he allowed me to say a quick “goodbye”, and he followed my every movement.

My two companions did not understand anything of what I said … They were refused permission to see me at the Police Station, so that when they returned to Glasgow they were unable to give any information to my superiors [at the Archdiocese].

When I arrived at the police station I was told to sit on a wooden chair in the middle of the room, and a policeman, with gun in hand stood before me. This was in the early hours of the morning and as time went on I felt the need to go to the bathroom. I was given permission and as I moved towards the W.C. I noticed that the policeman was following me with a gun at my back, and the gun stayed there during the whole operation…

[Monsignor Rossi was sent with other Italian nationals to a prison camp in the north of England. While there he worked hard to give the men hope, helping to organise sport and work activities. Less than a month after their arrival however, the tragedy of the Arandora Star took place.]

… One morning a lieutenant called me aside in a small room. He was a nice big man who originally came from Greenock but at that time was resident in Blackpool. He was nearly crying and with a broken voice he told me You know, padre, a number of our friends are dead. …he explained that the first group of internees had left Liverpool to go across the Atlantic and during the journey the ship had been torpedoed by a German submarine and many lives had been lost.

It was the 2nd July 1940 in the early hours of the morning when the ship was about 200 miles off the Irish coast. Many of those lost had left from our camp. He said: “And to think that they were such nice men”.

When more news began to arrive about the sinking of the ship I was given the job of sorting out the documents of the survivors and the missing persons.

Behind my table there was a large, simple bookcase, which contained folders containing the documents and some personal effects of the internees. It was not a pleasant job, because now and then I came across the names of some of my friends …. That event and that search left a mark on me.”

This extract is from the book “Memories of 1940” edited by Professor Eileen Anne Millar, who also oversaw the choice of verses on the mirrored plinths in the Cathedral Cloister Garden.