WATCH: Praying for the Synod

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops begins tomorrow (Wednesday 4 October) in Rome.

Please join Fr John Deighan (Ss John Cantius & Nicholas, Broxburn) in the below video in praying for its success.

The Pope video for October is titled 'For the Synod'. Watch the video below or on YouTube


How long does the Synod last?
This first session lasts from 4-29 October and takes place in Rome.
Who is representing Scotland?
Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles) is representing the Catholic Church in Scotland
Who is taking part?
It is mainly for Bishops from across the world  (hence the title The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops) but there is lay representation and women from relgious orders.
Where can I watch the Synod Sessions?
Vatican Media Live on YouTube.
Can I follow on social media?
Yes - official channels have been created for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Bishop Brian will be giving updates from Rome on the Facebook page of the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles.
Is there an official website?
Yes, it's It includes FAQs, resources, news and more.

Bishop McGee in Rome for global Synod

Bishops from around in Rome are in Rome this weekend ahead of the first of two Synod meetings.

The Catholic Church in Scotland will be represented by Bishop Brian McGee, of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles.

He said “I am very excited, although also nervous, about going to Rome for the Synod.

"The focus is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today.

"I have enjoyed listening to the feedback from people across Scotland and it will be fascinating to hear what people from across the world have to say."

Bishop McGee previously led a Scottish delegation, including our diocesan representative Sr Anna Marie McGuan RSM, to the Continental stage of the Synod in Prague (see below video).

The Rome synod takes place from Wednesday 4 to Monday 30 October on the theme 'For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission’.

While the gathering is a Synod of Bishops, there will be participants who are not bishops including lay and religious women.

There is a wonderful opportunity for renewal of the Church at every level.

The theme is 'synodality' with an emphasis on listening to the Holy Spirit.

The main discussion theme is to ask how can the Church best listen to people and act in a way that accompanies people, including both her own members and wider society, especially the most marginalised.

Pope Francis has invited church leaders to join him in prayer on Saturday to entrust the work of the of the Synod to the Holy Spirit.

Bishop McGee added: "There is a wonderful opportunity for renewal of the Church at every level.

"The Synod process has planted seeds of hope in the hearts of the faithful and in the Church in Scotland.

"I pray for its growth and fulfilment as we enter the next phase of the Synodal Process so that the Church can continue to grow as a caring mother, and a community of hope.

"The focus however is not the participants but the Spirit and I ask for your prayers as we strive to discern.”

Recap key points of the Synod in our summary video available on our Synod playlist on YouTube. The Archdiocesan Synod Report is available here.



Bishops ask for prayers during Synod

The Bishops of Scotland have asked for prayers during next month's Synod in Rome.

They have been at the Royal Scots College in Salamanca for their annual service week, reflecting on the working document for the Synod.

It follows a meeting of diocesan Synodality representatives recently in Airdrie.

A Facebook post on the page of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland said: "(The Bishops) agreed that this is an opportunity to respond to the pastoral reality of the Church, praying together and listening to the Holy Spirit.

"At the heart of the process is prayer, discernment and openness.

"The People of God - lay faithful, religious and clergy - on every continent, needs to be involved in this Synodal process."

It continued: "The Bishops of Scotland ask all Catholics in Scotland, and Scots of all pray for the Synod on Synodality especially during the month of October.

"All are asked to pray, every day of the Synod, the following prayer which has been invoked at Church Councils over the centuries, Ad Sumus Sancte Spiritus (see below).

Guided by Holy Spirit

Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles) who chairs the Bishops’ Conference Synodality Group, will represent the Church in Scotland at the Synod (hear what he's said about the Synod here).

The Bishops said: "The benefits of modern technology permit everyone to participate and perhaps, for the first time, allow the fullest expression of the reforms of the second Vatican Council to bear fruit in the Church.

"At the heart of the process is prayer, discernment and openness.

From left Archbishop William Nolan (Glasgow), Archbishop Leo Cushley (St Andrews & Edinburgh), Bishop Joseph Toal (Motherwell), Fr William McFadden (Galloway), Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles, Bishop John Keenan (Paisley) and Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB (Aberdeen).

"The beauty, goodness and truth of our Catholic faith cannot be contained by one opinion or ideology.

It appeals to the world to let the Holy Spirit guide us to the Jesus Christ, our way, our truth and our life.

"God knows what He wants for the Church more than we do.

"Through spiritual conversation we can discover and cherish that gift of faith which is open to all people of good will.

The journey of faith is rarely a straight road but requires patience and mutual support.

"It also treasures and is directed by the journey taken before us, by saints and sinners, a journey of forgiveness and renewal."

Ad Sumus Sancte Spiritus:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever.

Becoming a Deacon: Paul Henderson's story

The Cathedral is my spiritual home. Without the Cathedral, and its parish community, I might not be a Catholic, never mind training to be a priest.

It was through the Cathedral’s RCIA group that I was introduced fully to the faith and, on Easter Sunday at the Cathedral in 2016, received into the Catholic Church.

Being part of the RCIA programme was a profound experience.

Paul (left) with friend and fellow seminarian Peter Shankland. Both will be ordained in Rome on 14 June 2023.

I felt the truth of Jesus Christ growing in me, in the depth of my being, and was continually moved by the piety of the volunteers.

They would be there, always smiling, to welcome us enquirers, despite some of them having come straight from work (and surely exhausted) yet still willing to do this Christian service.

I remember how one evening a young priest from Africa explained his clerical garments and their ritual significance, before vesting and saying Mass.

I was struck as much by the beauty of his faith as by anything.

I remember asking him “how long did your training as a priest take?”

When I said this, one of the RCIA volunteers said to me “It’s not too late to get your application in, Paul!”

That really stuck in my mind, even though, at fifty-one, I presumed I must be too old to train to be a priest.

Beauty of the Mass

When I started RCIA, I thought I should acclimatise myself better to the liturgy, so started attending the twelve-noon Mass.

It wasn’t long before my eyes would fill with tears as I sang the Latin Creed joyously with the others: “Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum…!”

Peter and Paul at the Beda College in Rome where they are studying for the priesthood.

I was so moved at the aching beauty of the Mass and can honestly say that the Cathedral choir was thus part of my conversion, as was the devotion of the congregation, and whoever was responsible for the incredible flowers that appeared each week.

I remember Masses when Fr Patrick Burke was celebrating without a Deacon.

I can’t quite explain why, but the image of him on those occasions burnt itself in my memory, an isolated Catholic Priest acting in persona Christi.

I loved the multicultural congregation as well, the myriad of Europeans and “ethnic minorities”, so different from the very white Anglican church I was used to.


My eventual Confirmation in 2016 left me feeling so content.

There were drinks with the archbishop, clergy, and others, after that Easter Vigil, for those who had been baptised and confirmed at the cathedral that evening, and I had the strongest feeling that I had come “home”, by joining a truly global Catholic Church.

Just over two months later, on 23 June as it happened: I went to see Fr Patrick with a strong feeling I wished to serve the Church in a deeper way.

I’ll never forget the leap of joy in my heart when he asked if I’d considered the priesthood.

I will not forget the date, partly because it was the day of the Referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union!

I asked him if there was any possibility I could look into the Permanent Diaconate.

I’ll never forget the leap of joy in my heart when he asked if I’d considered the priesthood.

At the meeting, he continued to say that, at my age, I would probably be sent to the Beda College in Rome. Strange though it is, I immediately knew I was going to this college I’d never heard of in Rome.

Following the call

The next day I called people close to me and told them that I was offering myself as a Catholic priest.

I can honestly say I felt something of the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit pushing me forward.

That said, it took me considerable effort to extricate myself from my career and life in Edinburgh in order to follow the call.

In case this doesn’t sound all too rosy-tinted, I must add that before starting RCIA at this wonderful Cathedral, at the recommendation of a friend, I had approached two Catholic priests asking for advice on becoming a Roman Catholic.

In both cases, I had the strong impression that they were almost bemused at the idea, as if they could not understand why anyone might want to join.

It really was through Fr Patrick that I finally glimpsed the heights and the depth and the incomparable grandeur of the Catholic Church and understood that (as the Magisterium puts it) the Body of Christ ‘subsists’ in the Catholic Church, mystically and physically embodied in the institutional Church we see with our eyes, in our congregations, in its liturgy and its social action around the world.

I was also struck by Fr Patrick’s ability to reveal the depth of the Scriptures in his sermons.

Cathedral community

I’ve had such good connections formed with the Cathedral community that in many ways it has become like a family.

It gives me joy that my sister Rowena followed me, joining a later Cathedral RCIA programme and being confirmed in the Cathedral.

Also, my good friends Diana and her children Catherine-Charlotte and Iain, were likewise confirmed into the Cathedral in 2021.

The Cathedral has as well, for the time being anyway, literally become my home. When I left for the preparatory seminary in Salamanca at the start of 2020, Covid hit, and I had to return to Scotland.

Fr Patrick very kindly let me stay at the Cathedral, as I no longer had a place of my own.

This kind offer has extended to the present and I’ve stayed at the Cathedral during breaks from here at the Pontifical Beda College in southwest Rome.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge that I would never be here if Archbishop Leo had not approved it. I am extremely grateful for all the support he has given me.

Indeed, I am indebted to the whole Cathedral community who have been so supportive of my journey. Thank you.

Paul Henderson will be ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Leo Cushley at the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on Wednesday 14 June 2023. He will be ordained alongside Peter Shanklans, who is also a parishioner of the Cathedral. Read his story here. This article first appeared in Crux, the magazine of the Friends of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, Spring 2023 edition.

Becoming a Deacon: Peter Shankland's story

Despite being brought up as a Catholic, when I came to Edinburgh to study in 1992, I was more attracted by the bright lights of the city than by going to Mass!

In 2000 however, having by then settled in Edinburgh, I decided to start attending church again.

I went first to the Vigil Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, where the late Monsignor David Gemmel welcomed me back with open arms.

He told me that he hoped I was doing this for myself and not for my family.

I think he was making an important point.

Soon he encouraged me to become more involved in the life of the Cathedral parish, first as a passkeeper and then as a reader.

While I was training to work as a teacher, he offered me the chance to help with the children’s liturgy.

More than a building

Msgr David’s untimely death was a shock to all of us, and this was the moment I realised that I really belonged to a community in this Cathedral.

It was far more than just a building.

Peter (left) with friend and fellow seminarian Paul Henderson. Both will be ordained in Rome on 14 June 2023.

I became an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister at the invitation of Msgr Mike Reagan, another very wise priest from whom I would learn a lot.

Others who had an influence on me were Msgr Patrick Burke and Fr.Nick Welsh.

For me, they were both shepherds at a time when I could have become lost.

In 2018, I went on pilgrimage to Rome for the Diaconate Ordination of Fr Patrick Harrigan who attended the Beda College (where I currently study) and who is also an ex-parishioner of the Cathedral.

I was very moved by this ceremony, and it was the following day that I realised how much it had touched me.

While visiting the Vatican Museum, one of the great thunderstorms - for which Rome is famous - blew up. Once it had passed, I went for a walk in the gardens.

It was then that I dared to think that God might be calling me to be a priest. It is a moment I recall every time I read the story of Elijah’s encounter with the still small voice of God.

Happy memories

Many memories and impressions of the Cathedral stay with me as happy memories.

I think of the ark at the front of the sanctuary, and the times in front of the blessed sacrament when I felt as though I was raising my heart and mind to heaven when I looked across at it.

I think of being involved in the Chrism Mass and the Easter Triduum and the occasion when, in my nervousness at the former, I nearly dropped the processional cross.

Peter and Paul at the Beda College in Rome where they are studying for the priesthood.

I remember vividly assisting with the veneration of the cross on Good Friday, and how moving I found the solemnity on each face that came forward.

The people’s participation at the Vigil Mass was also achingly beautiful, and I felt I was a part of a giant family as we moved together into the body of the Church.

When I revealed to people that I had been accepted to study for the priesthood, I was overwhelmed by expressions of love and joy.

One parishioner said she had made a list of people she thought would answer God’s call, and I had been one of them.

Taking action

The movement from thought to action had come about one Saturday morning in the Cathedral, after confession with Fr Binhu, when he asked me to wait and speak to him outside the confessional.

He sensed I was torn about something. That was when I told him that I thought I had a vocation, and he was very encouraging and helpful.

I then met with Msgr. Burke, who said he thought I would make a good candidate, and with Fr Jamie McMorrin, the new curate, who was also supportive.

Fr Jamie encouraged me to attend his ‘young’ adult group for some pastoral and personal experience.

This gave me more confidence in talking about and understanding my faith.

Although I was receiving a lot of support from the clergy, I didn’t at first tell anyone in the parish that I was applying for the Priesthood.

That said I always found my conversations with parishioners encouraging during this time of waiting.

I would encourage anyone who feels they have a vocation to consider it carefully.

Even though they did not know my plans, I felt we were part of the same praying community, and that they were praying for me (as I was for them) regardless of what I was doing.

I found the Cathedral was a place of unparalleled calm that allowed me to spend time in silence.

As, God willing, I approach ordination as a Deacon this month, I haven’t for a moment regretted the resolution that was formed in that silence, and I feel every day that the Lord is affirming that He has called me into this wonderful vocation.

I would encourage anyone who feels they have a vocation to consider it carefully.

Rome has of course been a special place to study, but the Cathedral will always be the place where I came back to practising my faith and I will always be so grateful for the love, support, and prayers I received there.

In fact, and in a way I can’t express, I shall always be grateful to the Cathedral community.

Peter Shankland will be ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Leo Cushley at the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome on Wednesday 14 June 2023. He will be ordained alongside Paul Henerson, who is also a parishioner of the Cathedral. Read his story here. This article first appeared in Crux, the magazine of the Friends of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, Spring 2023 edition.

Scots College to close as city centre location sought

The Pontifical Scots College in Rome is set to close later this year as the hunt continues for new premises in the city centre.

The College, located on the Via Cassia on the outskirts of Rome, was first opened in 1964 and prepares men for the priesthood.

Seminarians will be temporarily based at the Pontifical Beda College in the city at the start of the next academic year.

Some of the seminarians currently based at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome.

The relocation plans were announced in 2020 after upgrades to the building were deemed too costly.

Its location also makes travel to the city centre universities where seminarians attend classes time consuming.

There are currently ten seminarians studying at the Scots College, two of those are from the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. The vice rector, Fr Nick Welsh, is a priest of the Archdiocese.

Seminarians will be temporarily based at the Pontifical Beda College in the city at the start of the next academic year.

The Beda is a seminary that prepares older men for the priesthood. There are currently two students from the Archdiocese based there.

Vatican appoints new Rector of Scots College 

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy has appointed Fr Mark Cassidy as the next Rector of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome.

He is a priest of Dunkeld Diocese and was Spiritual Director of the college from 2011 to 2018.

He said: "I am aware of the trust that the bishops have expressed in nominating me as the next Rector of the College in Rome.

"I am aware of the vital importance of the seminary in the life of the Scottish Church and look forward to being involved once more in the formation of a new generation of priests for service in Scotland.

"Fr Dan and his predecessor Mgr John Hughes brought their own gifts and talents to the role of Rector, and I intend to do all I can to build on the good work that they did.”

Fr Dan was first appointed as vice-rector of the college in 2012 before being made rector in 2015. He is set to return to a parish in the Diocese of Paisley.

The new appointment was made following the recommendation of the Bishops Conference of Scotland (BCOS).

Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of BCOS, said: "I wish Fr Mark every blessing in his new role, while extending our gratitude to the Diocese of Dunkeld for allowing him to serve the church nationally in such a crucial position. I wish him every success in his new and important responsibilities."

Fr Cassidy will take up his new post on 1 August 2022.  

Paul and Peter become Acolytes!

Congratulations to Paul Henderson and Peter Shankland who were instituted as Acolytes at the Beda College in Rome on Wednesday.

In this ministry they can assist the deacon and priest at the altar during Mass.

Both seminarians are parishioners from St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh. Please keep them in your prayers as they continue studying for the priesthood.

Feel you may be called to the priesthood? Chat with our Vocations Director Fr Andrew Garden on 0131 663 4286 or at If you are interested in the Religious Life (male or female) contact Sr Mirjam Hugens FSO on 0131 623 8902 or at 

Seminarians instituted as Acolytes in Rome

Six Scottish seminarians were instituted as Acolytes by Bishop Paul Tighe at the Scots College in Rome on Sunday.

They include Alessio Marchetti (above, second left), a seminarian of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, who is a fourth year student at the college. He is pictured with Fr Nick Welsh (left, vice rector of the Scots College and a priest of our Archdiocese) and Deacon Josh Moir (right, who is being ordained to the priesthood for our Archdiocese this summer).

Bishop Tighe, also pictured, is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The new acolytes are pictured above (front row from left): Ciaran Rooney (Glasgow Archdiocese), Aidan Matheson (Aberdeen Diocese), Alessio Marchetti (St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese), Michael Kearns (Glasgow Archdiocese), Christopher Furmage (Motherwell Diocese) and Paul Laverty (Paisley Diocese).

May God bless them on their journey to the Priesthood.

An acolyte is a milestone on the journey to priesthood, usually conferred in the fourth year of study at seminary. The next stage is diaconate, followed by ordination to the priesthood.

If you are based in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and want to find out more about the priesthood, contact Fr Andrew Garden on 0131 663 4286 for a chat or email him at, For the religious life, contact Sr Mirjam on 0131 623 8902,

WATCH: Four seminarians become Lectors!

Four seminarians at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome were instituted to the ministry of Lector by Cardinal George Pell on Sunday.

They included Alessio Marchetti, a seminarian of our Archdiocese, along with Aidan Matheson (Aberdeen), Paul Laverty (Paisley) and Chris Furmage (Motherwell). Please keep them all in your prayers.

The Mass was streamed on YouTube and can be watched here.