The Sermon of Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia at his Inaugural Mass: the proposal the Church makes to the world today is not an idea, or a plan or a policy, but a person. That person is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of Mary.

From the Website of Archdiocese of Glasgow

My dear brothers and sisters, I want first of all to associate myself most closely with Archbishop Conti’s welcome to everyone here at the beginning of this solemn liturgy and to thank you all warmly for being here today.

I have said how much of an honour it is for me to be appointed Archbishop of Glasgow in my home city and my home diocese. I sense the honour all the more keenly when I remember that this is a truly historic See whose origins go back to St. Mungo the founder of the Church here and the patron of the city in the sixth century. To be the Successor of Mungo brings me to my knees in humble prayer and calls me anew to faith and to holiness.

A visible and tangible reminder of the history of this diocese is provided today by the principal chalice being used at the altar for the liturgy of the Eucharist. It was gifted by Pope Pius IX in 1859 to Bishop Alexander Smith who was Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the Western District. It has been provided for this Mass today by the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception, a congregation of religious women founded here in Glasgow, to whom Bishop Smith gave the chalice. And even though Bishop Smith never succeeded to the office of Vicar Apostolic, his chalice is a reminder of the times when the Catholic Church in Scotland did not have a Hierarchy, it having been extinguished in 1603 with the death in Paris of James Beaton, the exiled Archbishop of Glasgow. The Archdiocese of Glasgow was then vacant until the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1878 and the accession of Archbishop Charles Eyre, who was the first of the modern Archbishops of Glasgow. To offer the precious blood of Christ in Bishop Alexander Smith’s chalice, given to him by Pope Pius IX, is to acknowledge that Jesus is the same heri, hodie et semper, yesterday, today and forever, the Lord of history and Lord of his Church. And it is a reminder that apostolic succession through history is not about an empty fascination with the past nor about boastful claims to legitimacy, but rather about faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the transmission of the fullness of faith in him, a faith which projects us through time to the challenges of today and tomorrow, and the new evangelisation, which will be my primary focus as the next Archbishop of Glasgow.

Today is the Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For me this is a most suitable day to take office as Archbishop of Glasgow. I believe that my lovely Mum, Annita, dedicated me to Mary not long after I was born and in my life I have always been keenly aware of the maternal love and protection of the Blessed Virgin. In fact, it was on this day, Our Lady’s birthday in the year 2005, while I was Rector of the Scots College in Rome, that it was communicated to me by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who was then Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, that the Pope Benedict XVI had appointed me Bishop of Paisley. And, as I have recounted elsewhere, I received the news from our own Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, represented here today by the Chargé d’Affaires, Mgr Brian Udaigwe, that Pope Benedict XVI had appointed me to be Archbishop of Glasgow as I was leaving the Marian sanctuary of Lourdes, after a diocesan pilgrimage. And so today again, I happily and thankfully place myself and this Archdiocese under the maternal protection and patronage of Mary, the Mother of the Lord.

In today’s Gospel, we hear how Mary received the news that she was to become the Mother of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, a proposal to which Mary generously consented. But for all that this Gospel passage recounts what we call the Annunication to Mary, it is much more about Mary’s child. The passage begins, “This is how Jesus Christ came to be born”. And in the passage, Mary’s child is said to be conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was to be called Jesus because he is the one who is to save people from their sins. In fulfilment of the prophecy, the Virgin Mary conceived and gave birth to a son, who would be called the Emmanuel, God-with-us. And this is what the apostolic succession of one bishop to the next is really all about: faithfully and fully according to the apostolic tradition, in communion with the See of Peter, everywhere and always, in season and out, proclaiming, explaining, defending, elucidating and constantly bringing to peoples’ lives the mystery of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ who came into the world, suffered, died and rose again so that we would have life and have it to the full, now and in the world to come.

So I think it is very important to stress that the proposal the Church makes to the world today is not an idea, or a plan or a policy, but a person. That person is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of Mary. I personally believe that that this proposal remains exciting and endlessly relevant for the world in which we live and when that proposal is made persuasively and well to people of good will, they often find that their minds are drawn to the truth of God and their hearts are touched by the love of God. That is why we must never lack in trust, in commitment and in enthusiasm for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want the whole Archdiocesan community, my priests and religious, parents and teachers, to be filled with that commitment and that enthusiasm for Jesus and for his Gospel and to radiate the joy which comes with the inestimable treasure of knowing Our Lord Jesus Christ. I want our young people and children to sense and grasp the beauty and the wonder of Jesus Christ; to discover with eagerness and joy the truths of the faith, the sanctifying and transforming potential of the sacraments, the teaching and maternal care of the Church,mater et magistra. I want us all to embrace the new evangelisation as the special challenge of our lifetime; to witness to each other and to the wider community the saving message of the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ in all its fullness. We must make it clear that the messages we communicate to the world about the common good, about the spiritual health of our land, about the sacredness of human life, about marriage and the family, about the alleviation of poverty and the pursuit of justice, about care for the marginalised in our society – all these have but one source, and He is Jesus Christ, born of Mary, who has come to us from the Father. In a time when circumstances have forced us to reflect upon religious freedom, today’s Gospel is a timely reminder that Jesus Christ is our freedom, and the Church will be truly free to the extent that she depends, not on alliances with earthly powers, but solely on Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

And, as I begin my ministry as Archbishop of Glasgow, I put my trust unconditionally and only in Jesus Christ our Lord, born of Mary, and I ask the people of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, and you, our fellow Christians who are our honoured guests here today to do the same. I ask people of other faiths to drink deeply of the compassionate wellsprings of their religious traditions for the sake of us all. And to all people of goodwill, I ask you to respond to the profoundest stirrings of your heart where there moves a spirit of love and goodness and truth. And may Mary the Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord, whom today we honour on her birthday, protect and help us always. Amen.
St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow
Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8th September 2012

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