BY Ian Dunn | July 26 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Scotland’s new archbishop is a Vatican diplomat

Episcopal appointment for St Andrews and Edinburgh means homecoming for Motherwell priest

POPE Francis has appointed Mgr Leo Cushley, 52, a senior Vatican diplomat and Motherwell Diocesan priest, as the new Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

The new archbishop-elect was introduced on Wednesday morning by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, who has been serving as apostolic administrator of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh since the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien in March.

Mgr Cushley said he was ‘humbled that our Holy Father Pope Francis has nominated me for such an important task here in our ancient capital’ and that he intended to begin his episcopate with a focus on ‘reconciliation and healing’ in the archdiocese.

The archbishop-elect has been serving as head of the English-language section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and has worked very closely with both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Mgr Cushley said he would dedicate himself to healing the remaining pain over the retirement of his predecessor Cardinal O’Brien after admitting his conduct had ‘fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.’

“I know it is a delicate moment and that there is a lot to be done, but with God’s grace and the kind support of the clergy and people of Edinburgh, I will work cheerfully and willingly with all the energy I can muster,” Mgr Cushley said, “There are certain important questions that I will also have to familiarise myself with. I have no jurisdiction in the diocese until after I have been ordained in late September. Only then will I be able to take stock of what has happened and see what can be done.”

However, Mgr Cushley said he intended to act ‘always in truth and in charity, with a view to reconciliation and healing among the Catholics of Edinburgh’ and his primary task would be to ‘preach the good news.’

His Episcopal ordination will take place on September 21 at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Friends of Mgr Cushley said he had the potential to be an excellent Archbishop.

Canon Gerard Tartaglia, of St Margaret’s Parish in Clydebank, who has known Mgr Cushley since they were at seminary together, said he ‘has all the qualities you would want from an Archdiocesan archbishop.’

“He’s a great guy, he always has been,” Canon Tartaglia said. “He’s kind and thoughtful, just decent. He can be very witty, but he doesn’t do putdowns, he’s just not interested in being like that.”

Canon Tartaglia also said although Mgr Cushley has been in the Vatican a long time, his pastoral experience Motherwell Diocese had been very important to him.

“He loved being a school chaplain, and he loved being in the parishes,” he said

Hugh McLoughlin, who was a teacher at St Aidan’s High School in Wishaw when Mgr Cushley was chaplain there in the early 1990s, said he was someone who was ‘obviously highly intelligent… but he was a really good chaplain as well and he got on really well with the children.”

Mgr Cushley was born in 1961 to Bill, a baker, and Eileen, a secretary, in Airdrie. He is the oldest of three children and his brother and sister and their families both still live in the West of Scotland.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1985 in St John the Baptist, Uddingston, Mgr Cushley served in the diocese of Motherwell for eight years. In 1993 he was summoned to work for the Holy See

As head of the English-language section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, he oversaw a team of writers translate all the Pope’s work into English, and translate into English any documents the Pope required. The work also includes interpreting from English when the Holy Father or the Cardinal Secretary of State request assistance and accompanying the Holy Father to English-speaking countries, to act as a personal translator. During 2010 Mgr Cushley accompanied Pope Benedict to Malta and Cyprus as well as the United Kingdom where he had the pleasure of presenting his family to Pope Benedict at Bellahouston Park.

Mgr Cushley’s appointment has been warmly welcomed by Church agencies.

Philippa Bonella, head of communications and education at SCIAF, said ‘everyone at SCIAF sends our warmest congratulations to Mgr Cushley on his appointment.’

Patricia Carroll of St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese’s pastoral department said the news was ‘very welcome’ during the Year of Faith.

—ian@sconews.co.uk

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