Nicola Sturgeon has paid tribute to Archbishop Mario Conti, the Emeritus Archbishop of Glasgow, saying he will be “long and fondly remembered”.
The First Minister said she was “very sad” to learn of Archbishop Conti’s death on Tuesday evening aged 88, following a short illness.
He had been a priest for 64 years and a bishop for 45.
Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “I am very sad to hear that Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti has died.
“His life of service as a priest, Bishop of the Catholic Church of Scotland and Archbishop of Glasgow will be long and fondly remembered. May he rest in peace.”
Archbishop Conti had trained at St Mary’s College, Blairs, Aberdeenshire, before studying at the Scots College and Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he obtained degrees in philosophy and theology.
He was ordained a priest in Rome on October 26, 1958.
After a series of roles, including his only parish priest appointment to Wick and Thurso – Scotland’s most northerly mainland Catholic parishes – he was named bishop of Aberdeen in February 1977.
He was one of the last surviving bishops in the world to have been appointed by Pope (now saint) Paul VI.
After 25 years in Aberdeen as bishop, he was named as successor to Cardinal Tom Winning as Archbishop of Glasgow in 2002, and served in that role for 10 years.
“When I was appointed Archbishop earlier this year I found him both gracious and welcoming and full of ideas and suggestions for the future.”
During his time as Archbishop of Glasgow, Archbishop Conti oversaw the renovation of St Andrew’s Cathedral and the construction of the adjacent Italian Cloister Garden to remember the victims of the wartime Arandora Star tragedy.
One of his proudest moments came when he welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to Britain at the first public Mass of the German Pope’s state visit in 2010 at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.
He held honorary doctorates from the universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian.
He was also a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a former lead chaplain to the Knights of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
“His presence as a bishop has been a constant for so long, it is difficult to remember a time when he wasn’t an active or retired member of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.
“As the current Bishop of Aberdeen I have many fond memories of him during his 25 years as Bishop of Aberdeen. Although he became Archbishop of Glasgow in 2002 his ties to the north east of Scotland remained strong.
“His interest in and knowledge of Scotland’s Catholic history was well known and his commitment to preserving the cultural heritage of the church was unwavering.
“In his retirement, he was a source of great wisdom and pastoral support to his successors both in Glasgow and Aberdeen.
“His work in ecumenism and interfaith matters as well as his affection for the Italian community in Scotland were among his defining characteristics.
“On behalf of the Bishops of Scotland, we commend his soul into the hands of God and pray that he may enjoy eternal rest.”
Rt Rev Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “We are very saddened to learn about the death of Archbishop Mario Conti, Emeritus Archbishop of Glasgow, and extend our deepest sympathy, thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and members of the Catholic Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Archbishop Conti made an outstanding contribution to ecumenism within Scotland and internationally and we recall this with gratitude. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”