BY Peter Diamond | November 2 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Pope briefed on Scotland’s Catholic schools success

The Holy Father was presented with a copy of the Jesus Our Teacher icon.

Scotland’s Catholic school success story was brought to Pope Francis as Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow presented the Holy Father with a copy of the Jesus Our Teacher icon.

The icon was commissioned to mark 100 years of state-funded Catholic schools in Scotland, and was presented to the Pope during a pilgrimage to Rome to mark the anniversary on October 17.

The director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES), Barbara Coupar, spoke with the Holy Father and revealed how she felt after being presented to Pope Francis.

“It was a very moving and humbling experience to be able to share our work with the Holy Father with the presentation of the Icon of Jesus Our Teacher,” she said.

“Archbishop Tartaglia explained to Pope Francis the different meanings of the people and symbols within the Icon and how they’re connected to our country and education.

“Later that day I was lucky to meet the Pope for a second time as Archbishop [Leo] Cushley, who was in Rome for the Synod, managed to organise another visit for the afternoon following the morning audience.

“That was a unique and unexpected moment and I’m very grateful for the archbishops of Edinburgh and Glasgow for helping to facilitate such an occasion.

“It was really humbling given everything that has gone on this year. It was a truly unique and privileged experience.

“The encounter really was a profound and touching moment and it gives SCES great joy and hope for the future.”


Pupils’ prayers for Pope

Barbara Coupar’s words to Pope Francis were brief but the first thing she wanted to do was let him know he is prayed for up and down the country.

“I just told him that our children from our schools had been praying for him all year and he knew straight away what I was saying without the archbishop translating,” Mrs Coupar said.

“The way the Holy Father listened to what was being said and commented on the Icon was fantastic. Obviously he was fresh from the Ad Limina visit of the Scottish bishops and was well briefed on what a landmark year it is for Catholic Education in Scotland.

“During the private conversation with Pope Francis the two archbishops explained what a unique position Catholics in Scotland are in to have a state-funded system as it was told that few countries in the world have this kind of system like ours, where lay Catholics teach in the schools as opposed to Religious.”

The woman who created the Jesus Our Teacher icon said it was a blessing from God that her work was presented to the Holy Father.

Bernadette Reilly said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to see an image of Pope Francis presented with my Icon and I have to say I’m fairly speechless.”

Ms Reilly added: “Three years ago I went to London to study iconography and for this to be an outcome is truly a blessing. Recently I’ve broken my ankle and I’m now recovering and the news has been a real boost and I see it as a sign from God.

“It is a great affirmation of the work which I do for the glory of God and now for the rest of my life I can look back on this and be very grateful.

“An icon is the liturgy in art form and it’s meant to be something that is gazed at so I’m delighted to hear that Archbishop Tartaglia was explaining the different meanings within Jesus Our Teacher. It has been a busy year with the icon moving around each diocese and I’ve felt very honoured to be included in a lot of the celebrations.

“The impact of the icon will last long after I’m gone and that’s a terrific thought and one to thank God for.”

Barbara Coupar said the pilgrims who travelled to Rome came from varying backgrounds.

“There were teaching and non-teaching staff. It was fantastic to have such representation to reflect the broad aspects of Catholic schools in Scotland,” she said.

The pilgrims visited the Scots College in Rome and were hosted on another evening by Sally Axworthy, the UK ambassador for the Holy See.

Mrs Coupar added: “For most of our pilgrims it was the first time they had visited the national seminary in Rome and I think they felt very privileged to have lunch, evening prayer and Mass with our future priests.

“The evening with Sally Axworthy was fascinating because she explained her role in some interesting topics which our senior pupils in Scotland would be very interested in. Sally revealed her work with the Vatican on things such as the environment and nuclear weapons, and we discussed the work our senior school pupils take an interest in on those types of moral issues.”

Archbishop Tartaglia said: “The pilgrimage to Rome was a very significant moment in the calendar of celebrations to mark the centenary of the 1918 Act. I was delighted to be able to present a copy of our icon of Jesus the Teacher to the Holy Father and to share moments of prayer and reflection with representatives of many of our Catholic schools in the city of the Apostles and the popes.

“We visited the great basilicas and the catacombs and were warmly received by the staff and students of the Pontifical Scots College.

“It was a Faith affirming experience for all who took part.”


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