Photographs and text by Stuart Maxwell
The congregation of Blessed John Duns Scotus Church in Gorbals shared their short pilgrimage to Bellahouston Park to celebrate Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday 16 September, with the LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW. Here is a view of this historic visit.
The 50-strong congregation met at 12 noon outside Bridge Street underground where Father Edmund, Church Guardian, handed out information packs and the all-important wrist band allowing entry.
Each person has paid £20 for the privilege of taking part. Many in the congregation had been at Bellahouston in 1982 when Pope John Paul II visited.
Retired Labour Councillor, James Mutter, was one of them. He remembered: ‘ It was a great day, with almost 300,000 people crammed in. There’s going to be lot more room this time’. An estimated 100,000 were in Bellahouston Park this time. He added: ‘This brings back memories for I was with my sister the last time and she’s dead now.’
Alighting at Ibrox, the congregation started the two miles walk to the park with a local resident playing the flute to entertain them. Said James: ‘I’ll just about make this but might need a wheelchair back!’
Arriving at Bellahouston, there was a sea of flags blowing in the wind as people jostle to get to their allotted spaces. Blessed John Duns Scotus folk were in zone 26, to the left of the stage. They had plenty to keep them interested as they wait for the Popemobile to arrive from Edinburgh, where the Queen had formally welcomed His Holiness.
Children’s choirs from local schools and singers such as Susan Boyle and Michelle McManus led the praise throughout the day.
Despite a strong police presence, the atmosphere was relaxed and the happy anticipation felt by members of the congregation, seemed to be shared throughout the park.
St Helen’s Primary school chanted to the whole of Bellahouston Park: ‘Welcome to Scotland, Pope Benedict’.
Father Edmund commented: ‘Everyone here is united in their faith, including those of my congregation. Having the Pope visit us, gives us a feeling of great solidarity.’
A sea of yellow umbrellas went up to show where the priests were for those taking Holy Communion.
A large proportion of the people attending the event were young people and the Pope spoke to them directly: ‘You face many temptations – drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol. These things are destructive. The only thing that lasts is the love of Jesus Christ. Search for Him. Know Him. Love Him. He will set you free.’
Added the Pontif: ‘the Church belongs to you.’
The Blessed John Duns Scotus Chapel in the Gorbals has re-opened for worship, five years after a fallen candle sent it up in flames.
On Thursday 9 September nearly 400 people entered the new space to mark the re-opening with a mass celebrated by Archbishop Mario Conti.
The blaze started on 7 July 2005, the same day London’s transport system was targeted by suicide bombers. In the interim five years, the congregation have had to pray and take Mass in the adjoining church hall, leaving this space unusable for other events, restricting the church’s capacity for holding social events and raising funds.
Built in 1975, the church is the fusion of four parishes. The emergency set-up has been a real restraint on activity. The Franciscan congregation and Father Edmund, Church Guardian, have been rewarded for their patience and endurance.
The new chapel is a truly modern space, designed by Scottish architects Elder and Cannon, with windows stained blue, to represent, says Father Edmund, ‘Scotland, depending whose asking!’.
In one corner of the chapel, above electric candles - to avoid a repeat disaster - stands the same shrine to St Anthony, holding baby Jesus, that was burnt during the fire. The fire damage remains, to remind people of struggles past. The figure of Jesus stands on the Bible. ’This symbolises the written word becoming flesh’, explained Father Edmund.
Of the re-dedication, Father Edmund said: ‘It was a great celebration and it’s wonderful to be back in here. It was closed for five years and that is quite a long time.’
John Duns Scotus was born around 1265 in the East Coast of Scotland and is considered the greatest theologian of the English speaking world. He was beatified in 1993 by Pope John Paul II, the third of four steps toward canonization. The Gorbals church was the first in the world to take Blessed John Duns Scotus for its name.
The Blessed John Duns Scotus congregation will be attending the Pope’s visit to Glasgow this Thursday. The LOCAL NEWS will be there with them to give the people’s perspective of the Papal visit.