When Donald Trump won the US election last year, the next day’s Ellon Times carried the headline “Aberdeenshire business owner wins presidential election”. I love how these newspapers have a habit of picking up on the local interest aspect of world events.
Here in Scotland we had the ecclesiastical equivalent of that White House scoop, as the Scottish Catholic Observer, the Herald’s sister title, trumpeted the appointment of the successor of St Ambrose with the headline “New Milan archbishop is an honorary Greenockian”.
The story behind the headline is, it must be said, somewhat remarkable. Milan’s archbishop-elect Mario Delpini sought refuge from the heat of the Italian summer in the slightly less torrid surroundings of my parish, St Joseph’s in Greenock. It was my predecessor here who befriended and welcomed the summer supply relief of the unassuming monsignor who would go on to be auxiliary bishop of Milan.
The parishioners speak of “Bishop Mario” with real affection and take great pride in the news of his elevation to the see of Milan. To be honest, supply priests seldom make all that much of an impact. As they are usually on holiday themselves, they tend not to stretch themselves beyond the celebration of daily and Sunday Mass, along with the odd baptism or funeral. The understanding is that they are there to keep the parish ticking over until the parish priest returns refreshed from his holiday.
Bishop Mario was cut from an altogether different cloth. If the parish were a car, Mgr Delpini would ensure that it got a proper “run” in the pastor’s absence.
Of course, a car is hardly the best analogy for this bicycle-loving shepherd, who preferred to cycle around to the housebound or keep trim by running along the Esplanade in Greenock or up to Lyle Hill, a scenic belvedere within the parish itself.
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