The Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, died suddenly last week. He had been diagnosed with Covid-19, but there was as yet no word on the precise cause of his death, at age 70, on the Feast of St Mungo — Patron and Founder of Glasgow — after leading the Church in that city for more than eight years.
An “immeasurable” loss, was how the Bishops of Scotland described Archbishop Tartaglia’s passing, while Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken recalled His Grace’s “keen social conscience,” his “compassion and the leadership he offered” in trying times, which are bound to make his passing keenly felt not only to the Catholic faithful of Glasgow, but “to the city as a whole.”
Archbishop Tartaglia was a native Glaswegian, born in the city on 11 January 1951. He trained for the priesthood at St Vincent’s, Langbank and St Mary’s, Blairs (Aberdeen), before going to Rome and the Pontifical Gregorian University, during which time he lived at the Pontifical Scots College.
After his ordination in 1975, then-Father Tartaglia returned to the Scots College — he was dean of studies for a while as a young priest, while he completed work on his Doctorate in Sacred Theology. Nearly two decades later, in 2004, he would be invited to take the post of Scots College rector — but his tenure in office would be brief, as Pope Benedict XVI called him to serve as Bishop of Paisley in 2005.
Fr Ryan Black of the Diocese of Paisley, currently assigned to St Mirin’s Cathedral, remembered Archbishop Tartaglia from his youth, and his time at the Scots College in Rome, as “a kind man with a father’s heart.”
“With so many others from the Diocese of Paisley,” Fr Black told the Catholic Herald, “I remember Bishop Tartaglia fondly and I pray for the happy repose of his soul.” Fr Black recalled the day then-Bishop Tartaglia called on him at his home parish:
In April 2012, then-Bishop Philip presided at the 3pm Good Friday service in my home parish. A few weeks earlier, I had made first contact with the diocesan vocations director about the possibility of applying to the Diocese of Paisley to go to seminary. Very few people knew about this at the time, so I didn’t know what to expect when, just before 3pm, my parish priest approached me and told me that the bishop wanted to see me after the service.
I remember how delighted he was to speak with me that day; he spoke with fatherly concern and promised that he would pray for me in the coming weeks and months. Not long after this, he was appointed the Archbishop of Glasgow, but he often recalled that first meeting when we met at the Scots College.
Archbishop Tartaglia’s doctoral work was on the Council of Trent’s Eucharistic teaching — an intellectual manifestation of a love for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament that was palpable to those, who knew him.
“Archbishop Tartaglia was known for his love of the Eucharist, his love of our Blessed Mother, and his love of the Church,” Fr Black told the Catholic Herald. He was also clear-eyed in his love of the Church, sensible of the suffering bad leadership has caused and well aware of the urgently pressing need for young men to do better.
“At the ad limina visit in 2018,” Fr Black recalled, “pained by the scandals that had plagued the Church in recent times, he pleaded with the seminarians in a homily at the tomb of St Peter, ‘Don’t let the devil compromise you, as others have so obviously been compromised’.”
“A gentle and caring pastor,” was how Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB of Aberdeen, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Scotland, recalled Archbishop Tartaglia, “who combined compassion with a piercing intellect.” Bishop Gilbert went on to say, “[W]e will miss his wisdom and wit very much.”
“We commend his soul into the hands of God,” said Bishop Gilbert, “and pray that he may enjoy eternal rest.”