Archbishop Cushley reflects on 2021

As we prepare for a new year, we asked Archbishop Cushley to give his reflection on some of the things that happened in 2021.

Remembering a good friend

As the year draws to a close our thoughts turn to those we have lost over the last 12 months. One of those was Archbishop Philip Tartaglia who died in January. I recall a group of us as young seminarians in Rome watching Philip defend his Doctorate at the Gregorian University in February 1980. It was the first time I had seen someone defend the faith in this way in public. The doctorate was on the Eucharist, and we were all very impressed. We had the feeling that here was someone who would do well promoting the faith in his life.

He went on to be an extremely good professor on the Eucharist and the Trinity, and as we know became a fine professor, Rector of the seminaries in Glasgow and Rome, Bishop of Paisley, then Archbishop of Glasgow. He was someone that we all looked up to intellectually and he was also kind and gentle. They also tell me he was a great footballer! Archbishop Philip was a wise and measured counsellor, a good theologian, a very fine teacher, and a good friend. He is sadly missed among his brother bishops in Scotland.

An audience with Pope Francis

I was granted an audience with the Holy Father at the Vatican in September. He took the opportunity to discuss COP26, said that he still intended to come to Glasgow, and was looking forward to it. At the same time, though, he himself sounded a minor note, mentioning surgery he had just received. All the same, he was clearly in good health and delighted with his recovery up until that point.

Two weeks later, a team from the Vatican came to survey the Pope’s possible routes through central Scotland. The Swiss Guard and Gendarmes even took a look at my wee car to see if the Pope could get in the back of it, as he is famous for preferring small cars on his international trips! It was soon decided, however, that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, would be the man to head to Holy See’s delegation to COP, instead of the Pope. Not surprising, considering his age – he is 85 this year – and the surgery he had just been through, but it was disappointing, nonetheless. It would’ve been a great honour, and great fun, to have him here.

 The power of prayer…

In March, I encouraged our parishioners to get their hands on a little prayer booklet produced by the Archdiocese for the special year dedicated by the Holy Father to St Joseph. It was compiled by our busy Catechetics Commission to be a ‘spiritual toolbox’ for families. Many people’s prayer life (and spiritual health) took a bit of a battering due to Covid, so this was something to help people reconnect with the Church during the dismal time when our Churches were closed.

The Holy Father’s plans for the Synodality consultation is also a chance for parishioners to get together in person. Our Archdiocese is doing lots to ensure parishes are supported throughout the synod process, from videos clarifying FAQs, to producing a guide to help parishes host the ‘spiritual conversations’ the Holy Father has asked us for. This is very much a parishioner-led synod and rightly so. I look forward to sharing our feedback with my brother bishops at the Synod in 2023. It’s also great to hear of so many teachers and pupils are listening to the Pope’s plea that we care for our common home by becoming Laudato Sì schools.

…and the centrality of the Eucharist

In November, our Archdiocese launched a 40 Hours’ Devotion schedule. Each parish in our Archdiocese will host 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration across this new liturgical year. Why did we do this? Well, I wanted first of all to invite people to the Mass itself and put it back into the landscape of their lives. As the Second Vatican Council taught very clearly, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. The idea of the 40 Hours coming to each parish one by one was also prompted by our very absence from church for such long periods of time during Covid.

Thirdly, I have noticed a growing interest in adoration among younger Catholics. Our young people have not grown up with much attention to Eucharistic adoration, but they now tell me of a curiosity about it, and others of a genuine desire to spend time with the Lord in this way. An example of this was a recent Holy Hour we had at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. On the last night of it, which I attended, there were over a hundred people there and the average age of those present was people in their 30s. Adoration is also a source of many vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood. It allows us to come to church safely, to be with the Lord, and to pray, silently or aloud; and, as mentioned, lets us put the Eucharist at the centre of our spiritual life. More than any other devotion, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament can take us straight to the presence of the living Lord and to the meaning of our discipleship.

Praise for parishioners

Many have been unsure about coming back to church, even though there is no evidence that churches have been unsafe places to go during Covid. In fact, all the evidence suggests that our churches are among the safest public venues of all. I believe this is largely due to the patient and conscientious work of hundreds of parishioners who have volunteered to work with our clergy to ensure that churches are clean and safe and following protocols. If you have volunteered to clean your church or to take down details of those who arrive for Mass, thank you. Some pots and pans could be banged in your honour too!

I hope you all have a Happy and Holy New Year.


This article first appreared in the Scottish Catholic, 24 December 2021