(Vatican Radio) An archbishop has celebrated a Mass to mark the 50th anniversary of one of Scotland’s most notable sporting achievements.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia presided at a Mass to mark the 50th anniversary of Celtic FC’s 1967 European Cup triumph in Lisbon. The Mass took place in the famous football (soccer) club’s spiritual home, St Mary’s church in the Calton, Glasgow, where the club was formally constituted in 1887 by an Irish Marist Brother – Brother Walfrid – and other founding members.
Eighty years after the club was constituted, a team of Scots made history when they won the European Cup on 25th May 1967, when they defeated Inter Milan 2-1 at the Estádio Nacional in Lisbon. Quickly, the squad became known as the ‘Lisbon Lions’. The manager, Jock Stein, was lauded as a hero among Celtic fans. He was the first manager of a British team to win the trophy.
Thousands of Scots are joining the club by marking the special anniversary of the tremendous feat with a series of events. The Mass, one such event, was well attended on 20th May. In a clear attempt to continue to battle the sectarian ideology that has plagued the city in years gone by, one of the people in attendance at the Mass was Reverend Ian Miller, who represented the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Representatives from other faiths also attended.
On their official website, Celtic FC said of the Mass: “The Mass will not only mark the Lisbon Lions’ footballing achievement but also reinforce Celtic’s values as a club open to all, which have been an integral part of the club’s character since its inception.”
In his homily, Archbishop Tartaglia – a self-proclaimed Celtic fan – asked the faithful to remember in their prayers those members of the squad who had passed away: “We remember in our hearts and prayers those Lions who have died… most recently Tommy Gemmell, who scored our equaliser at Lisbon.” He also asked the faithful to remember the Lisbon Lions who could not attend the Mass because of bad health.
Reflecting on the choice to mark the anniversary at a Mass, the archbishop said that he was pleased that the commemoration was “more than a secular sporting occasion” and that those in attendance had “chosen to retain a living link with the faith tradition out of which Celtic FC was born.”
He spoke about the club’s founding values of “active and charitable concern for the needs of the community, past and present” and about the culture of the club “which allows it to welcome and embrace all kinds of supporters into the Celtic family who come from other religious traditions and from none.”
His Grace spoke about the faith tradition represented by Brother Walfrid. He said that he hopes it will “continue to sustain and inspire the development of Celtic as it seeks ever more to be find the way to be a club open to all in Glasgow, in Scotland and throughout the world.”
The archbishop did not miss the opportunity to talk about his own love for the club. “I suppose in a certain sense, I am an example of Celtic being a club open to all. I am Scottish-Italian and I have always just presumed that Celtic is as much my team as anyone else’s. I love Celtic as much as anyone does. I rejoice as much as anyone when we win. I hurt as much as anyone when we lose. I consider myself to be as much part of the Celtic family as anyone else.”
The anniversary gives fans an opportunity not only to think about the past but about the future. Archbishop Tartaglia reminded them of their shared “responsibility and obligation” to ensure that the club moves forward with the “openness to all, active concern for the community, and thirst for justice and fairness and reconciliation” that have been characteristics of its history.
“In this way,” he concluded, “Celtic can continue to be an influence for good and for social harmony in our great city of Glasgow and in Scotland.”