Bishop Emeritus of Paisley

Born: June 22, 1929;

Died: October 14, 2016

JOHN Aloysius Mone, who has died aged 87, was the often-outspoken Bishop of Paisley for 18 years until his retirement in 2004 when he became Bishop Emeritus.

Known to his congregation as Bishop John, he also served as chairman of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and president of the Scottish Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. Throughout his career, he spoke out against apartheid and in favour of human rights. Having been to South Africa on a fact-finding mission on behalf of the Catholic church, when apartheid was at its peak, he strongly criticised the Pretoria regime and expressed disgust when the Scottish rugby team went there.

"Many South Africans will feel deeply disappointed and let down by Scotland through the decision," he said at the time. "Much has been made of the racial integration within sport (in South Africa). From what I saw, the integration is extremely limited. Sporting facilities for blacks are much inferior to those of whites." The Bishop's motto was "To lead in love."

But the Bishop was perhaps best-known for his outspoken opposition to the Dungavel detention centre for immigrants and their families near Strathaven, South Lanarkshire. He struggled for many years, unsuccessfully, to have the centre closed and was particularly outraged by the fact that young children, even babies, were held in the centre along with their asylum-seeking parents. Bishop Mone often went head-to-head with then Home Secretary David Blunkett, who argued that it was better for immigrant children to remain with their parents, even under detention. Bishop Mone's response was that Dungavel was "Scotland's shame."

The argument at the time centred on the Ay family, Kurds from eastern Turkey, who were detained for more than a year with their children. Partly through Bishop Mone's persistence, they were eventually granted asylum in Germany. The bishop saw this as a loss to Scotland since Kurdish people, despite the tragic problems in their homelands are known for their dignity, honour and hard work.

"I had to make Mr Blunkett aware of the psychological and emotional effects that living in a prison had on children," the bishop said at the time. "These children, and their parents, have committed no crime, yet they are held like criminals. No child should be in an environment like that - this is a prison setting with high walls and barbed wire."

John Aloysius Mone, one of six children, was born in Crosshill, Glasgow on June 22, 1929, to Arthur and Elizabeth (née Dunn). He went to the local Holyrood Secondary School near Hampden Park before deciding to enter the priesthood and moving to France to study, first with the Sulpicians (Society of Priests of St Sulpice) and later at the Institut Catholique in Paris. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 12, 1952.

He first served as curate at St Ninian's in Knightswood, followed by five years at Our Lady and St George in Penilee and a further five years as parish priest at St Joseph's in Tollcross. In 1971, he was Scottish National Chaplain for the Girl Guides and he served as chairman of the Scottish International Aid Fund in 1974-75. In the early '80s he was chairman of the Glasgow Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and ultimately of the Scottish Catholic Marriage Advisory Council.

He was ordained as a bishop on May 14, 1984, by the Archbishop of Glasgow, Thomas Winning, in Holy Cross Church - where he had been baptised - and was named the third Bishop of the diocese of Paisley, based at St Mirin's Cathedral, on March 8, 1988, where he would remain until his retirement on October 7, 2004. Throughout his tenure, he had always advised his brother priests to take a day of rest in the week, in his case to enjoy his beloved golf.

His retirement did not come easy. While Bishop Mone's and the Pope's big boss famously works in wondrous but mysterious ways, the Vatican tends to work in slow ways. Bishop Mone advised the Vatican in 2003 that he would like to retire the following year, when he would be 75, allowing a younger man to take over. He had the support of his flock in Paisley but the Vatican, and notably the Pope's ambassador to Britain at the time, Archbishop Pablo Puente, not only did not want to lose a fine bishop but was also faced with a logjam in episcopal appointments.

Whoever decided what was never clear. But Bishop Mone retired soon after his 75th birthday. At a mass to mark his retirement in 2004, the Bishop of Galloway, Rt Rev John Cunningham, who was born in Paisley, said: "John led by example. He was one of the hardest-working persons I ever met and I learned much from him. But he recognised the importance of recreation.

“He did his best to ensure he could enjoy his golf on Wednesdays and reminded his brother priests to take a proper day off each week, along with their full holiday entitlement.”

At that mass, Bishop Mone himself said: “I felt very emotional as well as proud throughout the mass – especially when the congregation sang my favourite song, Wind Beneath My Wings. Its beautiful words reminded me that the wings which supported me during my 16 years were the prayers, goodwill and support of the people of the diocese, along with my brother priests. I never looked on my work as a chore. It was more of a privilege and an honour to serve in a town and diocese where there is such a strong community spirit.”

After Bishop Mone's death last Friday, the current Bishop of Paisley John Keenan said: "Bishop John was a holy man of God who was a gentle and faithful pastor of his people and who was dearly loved by the faithful, clergy and religious of Paisley diocese. May he rest in peace. Our condolences go to his family who will thank God for his good life, along with the people of the diocese. Our heartfelt gratitude to Mother Stephen, the sisters and staff of the Holy Rosary Residence (in Greenock) who cared for him lovingly to the end."

After retirement, Bishop Mone lived on the Esplanade in Greenock and latterly at the Holy Rosary Residence nursing home nearby, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, where he passed away peacefully on October 14.