After a short illness, the former Archbishop of Glasgow, Archbishop Conti, died at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on Tuesday 8th November 2022 at the age of 88.
Born in Elgin, Moray on the 20th March 1934, Archbishop Conti had his primary schooling there before heading to Blairs College in Aberdeen, having, from an early age, expressed a desire to become a priest. From there, he went on to prepare for priesthood at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained priest for the Diocese of Aberdeen on 26th October 1958 in the church of San Marcello in Corso, Rome. Returning to Aberdeen as assistant priest in St Mary’s Cathedral, he was appointed parish priest of St Joachim’s, Wick, in 1962 and then also of St Anne’s, Thurso, in 1967. Ten years later, he was nominated as bishop of his home Diocese, remaining in that post for the next almost 25 years. In 2002, he was named Archbishop of Glasgow in succession to the late Cardinal Thomas Winning, who had died in June 2001. He was to remain as Archbishop of Glasgow for the next ten years, his retirement by reason of age being accepted by Pope Benedict XVI in July 2012. He remained in Glasgow thereafter until his death, having become very much at home in his second diocese. It was as Archbishop of Glasgow that he had the honour of welcoming Pope Bendict XVI to the city as part of his state visit to the U.K. for the celebration of Mass in Bellahouston Park on the 16th September 2010.
As Archbishop, he oversaw a number of projects to enhance the cultural life of the Diocese and City, including founding AGAP (“the Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project”), promoting and participating in the Mungo Festival each January – a series of civic, ecumenical and cultural events around the feast of the city’s patron saint – and leading the renowned refurbishment of St Andrew’s Cathedral itself. In education, he established a course for the training of catechists for parishes, oversaw the development of the St Andrew’s Foundation at Glasgow University and links with the Archdiocese and encouraged took a keen interest in Catholic schools and the young people being formed there. He was a champion of ecumenical dialogue and made it a priority to ensure that the Catholic voice was heard in civic and public discourse at every level and he was granted honorary doctorates by the Universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow and by Glasgow Caledonian University. Although Archbishop Conti was known to be a man of culture and learning, he was also a man of deep faith and profound concern for the welfare of those he had been called to shepherd. Even in retirement, the Emeritus Archbishop took great pleasure in attending parish events around the Archdiocese and had a joyful sense of engagement with young and old alike.
Although proud of his North-East roots, he never forgot his Italian ancestry, being both a regular visitor to his ancestral city of Barga and being named a “commendatore” of the “Ordine de Merito” of the Italian Republic. His Scots-Italian background was much in evidence in Glasgow as he inaugurated an annual Mass for deceased members of the Italian ex-pat community in Glasgow and oversaw the commissioning and establishment of a memorial garden in the Cathedral precincts to honour those who died when the ship the “Arandora Star”, carrying Italian civilian internees, was sunk in 1942 during the Second World War.
His funeral was celebrated by Archbishop William Nolan on Friday 18th November 2022, Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen preaching a moving homily which eloquently captured the gentle humour, character and faith of the late Archbishop.
May he rest in peace.