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Location: Glasgow Guide / Glasgow Images / Cardinal Winning's Funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral (1)  

BISHOP JOSEPH DEVINE paid tribute in his sermon to a Cardinal Thomas Winning who who died on June 17 aged 76

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"Last Tuesday evening, Monsignor Peter Smith, the chancellor here, phoned me with an offer that I could scarcely refuse. I said to him: "Peter, I have been dreading this moment for years."  That moment is this moment, when I try to capture something of the life of the man who was a superstar of the Catholic Church in Scotland in the 20th century.

It is a near impossible task, for how do you capture the will o' the wisp in anything? But my starting point is obvious, to convey condolences to the cardinal's sister Margaret, her children Agnes and Edward and their families, his devoted housekeeper for 30 years, Mrs Isabel McInnes, as well as to the priests and people of Glasgow.

Thomas Joseph Winning was a priest for over 50 years, a bishop for 30 years and a cardinal for the past seven years. He packed at least the content of four lives into his 76 years of life, due to his boundless energy and his sheer zest for life.

Since his ordination in Rome in 1948, the Church asked him to undertake virtually every office in the book. His response to each and all was ready and affirmative. But that was him, ever the Church's man from his earliest days in his beloved home parish of St Patrick's in Shieldmuir. There was only ever one ambition in the life of Thomas Winning, to serve God in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. He was pure gold in that vocation and the Church recognised that time and time again.

His work rate was legendary, as was his warmth and affection for all manner of people.

At most of the functions that he attended, he was virtually the last to leave, going out with the sawdust, to use an old Glasgow expression. All of that must have taken its toll on him, even if this was to go unnoticed until the last few days of his life.

Nor did he take time off for leisure pursuits. When he did, it would be for reading, for he was a voracious reader of the press and the best theological journals.

A second was an occasional walk by the sea and the third rather more frequent visits to a well-known football stadium in the east end of Glasgow.

Two things more than most endeared him to people. My mother, who had never met him at that time, said to me 27 years ago: "Joseph, what I like about our new archbishop is that he is a fighter."

Undoubtedly that was true. He went on to challenge Margaret Thatcher about the poll tax and the Falklands War.

He challenged the present prime minister over the alleged gagging of Labour MPs who supported the cause of pro-life.

He challenged the Scottish Executive about the repeal of Section 28. Just a month ago, he challenged this city about the attitude of some of its citizens to asylum seekers. He had a natural talent for the dust of battle.

The other thing that endeared him to people was his quick wit. He once attended a dinner hosted by the Queen at Holyrood House. As the meal ended, the guests formed into groups and the Queen went to meet each.

She turned to the archbishop and said: "You will know that we have recently been to Rome. It was wonderful to meet the Holy Father and we found so helpful the cardinal secretary of state.

"But we could never remember his name. So, privately, Philip and I used to call him Cardinal Saucepan."

"Close enough, your majesty," he replied, "for his name is Casaroli."

In May of 1982, with Archbishop Worlock of Liverpool, he gained much credit for keeping on track the visit of the Holy Father to Britain which had been threatened by the war in the Falklands. They found a formula that everyone had wanted by inviting the Argentinian cardinals of the day to come to Rome and making them aware that John Paul's visit was of a purely pastoral nature and was not in any sense a kind of quasi-state visit.

As the years went on, the cardinal was to prove no less resourceful in finding solutions to many other difficult situations.

Totally unreported by the press and the media, it was around the same time that he began his most ambitious programme, that of a pastoral plan for the spiritual and pastoral renewal of the archdiocese. This was hardly headline- grabbing stuff, but it meant so much to him over the past 20 years that he would have seen it as his own lasting legacy to the archdiocese.

The media always knew that he would come up with a different comment from the run of the mill answers that would never make a headline. He was ever good copy and he knew it.

However, as the years went by, he confided to one of his close advisers: "I wonder what the papers will say about me after I am dead? I am not worried about me, but I would hate my family to be hurt because of what the press might say."

For once he got it spectacularly wrong. The press reports have been very positive, with only a few dissenting voices.

I take this opportunity of thanking the press and the media for their support of the death of a very great archbishop.

His faults and shortcomings? Of course there were a few, but they were all so very characteristic of the man that they were almost like minor virtues.

The first was his low threshold of boredom, not least when on holiday. A second was over quick reactions to something that had happened and overstating his response. The third was his ability to insult his closest friends, because he knew that they knew that he did not mean it.

What an extraordinary life he led. What was not extraordinary was his personal spirituality.

Like the man himself, it was direct and uncomplicated. Not for him the exotic or the esoteric. With him it was ever as straight as a die, the celebration of the Eucharist each day, the divine office, the rosary and quiet times in his chapel. It was like breathing to him, central and pivotal to his daily living.

Nine years ago he suffered a great loss with the death of his closest friend of 45 years, Bishop Donny Renfrew.

At his requiem Mass in St Peter's in Partick, the cardinal preached the finest - as well as the shortest - homily that I ever heard him deliver.

Hours later we were back here for the interment of Bishop Renfrew in the crypt below. As the big iron door closed in the crypt, the cardinal turned and the two of us looked at each other. He gave that characteristic smile with a shrug of the shoulders. He had guessed that I knew what he had been thinking. What he was thinking was that the next time that door was to be opened, it would be for him. Sadly, this is that day.

But not then, not yet, not for a while. There were still mountains to climb, lots of them as it turned out. Best of all, there was the day when the Holy Father announced that the Archbishop of Glasgow was to be created Cardinal at the consistory in November 1994.

Over 1500 Scots went to Rome for him and with him for that wonderful occasion.

Lots of parishes wanted to see the Scottish cardinal. Maybe his greatest fault lay in his inability to say no to such invitations.

But then he was ever a people person. On his death certificate it may say that the cause of his death was a heart attack. That is true, superficially. The real truth is that Cardinal Winning died of having lived.

As I draw towards a conclusion, my thoughts return to you, Margaret, to Agnes and Edward, to the children and to Mrs McInnes. You were such an important part of his life. The past week must have seemed almost interminable to you. Now it is near its end.

Yet perhaps for you the hardest part is soon to come. To you he was simply Tom, or uncle Tom, or father.

To his Eminence of Westminster and to thousands of others, he was simply Tom as well.

Years ago, a former merchant seaman met the archbishop for the first time when he came to offer Mass for the Sisters and the residents one Christmas morning in the early 1980s.

We all know what that old man meant when he greeted the archbishop as follows: "Your Grace", he said, "What I like most about you is that you have no dignity", for Thomas Joseph Cardinal Winning never stood on his dignity, ever.

Finally, if he could speak to us yet, I think I knew him well enough to convey that final message. It would be this: "Don't waste your tears on me, though I am grateful for them. Instead, say your prayers for me. I will be even more grateful for them."

A right of reply? Certainly the cardinal would give us that, as our final farewell to him.

If I am any judge, I am going to presume that you will let me voice for you what you would want me to say.

It is not more than six simple words. Those words are these: "Tom, thank you for being you."

BISHOP JOSEPH DEVINE

Images: Provand's Lordship IV>>Images: Cardinal Winning Funeral II

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