Born: January 11, 1951;

Died: January 13, 2021.

THE Most Reverend Philip Tartaglia, who has died aged 70, had served as the eighth Metropolitan Archbishop of Glasgow (in the post-Reformation reckoning) since 2012, and before that as Bishop of Paisley and rector of seminaries in both Glasgow and Rome.

He was generally seen as theologically orthodox and, in practical matters, as a safe pair of hands; in the aftermath of the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien over allegations of sexual impropriety, it was Tartaglia who was asked to pick up the pieces as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

If he gave the impression neither of O’Brien’s ready friendliness nor the pugilistic bravado of Thomas Winning, a predecessor at Glasgow, he was nonetheless a comfortable fit for his post: thoroughly Glaswegian, but at ease with the Vatican under both Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed him, and his successor Pope Francis.

In a sermon in November 2014 to mark the first anniversary of the Clutha Vaults tragedy, and addressing those who had lost friends or family: “To you we say that we have not forgotten, that we care, that we continue to offer you our sympathies and help. You will never forget, but remember that the remaining pain in your heart is the undying fire of love, and, even if it hurts sometimes and brings you to tears, it will also fill you with the warmth of the person you will always love.”

His public statements, when they were seen as veering into political territory, were, in Catholic terms, fairly middle-of-the-road. He was highly critical of Prime Minister David Cameron’s position on same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, but also a firm and vocal opponent of nuclear weapons. Some observers thought him rather too cosy in his relations with the SNP government – he wrote an effusive letter to Alex Salmond when he stood down as First Minister – but he was extremely critical of its introduction of legislation directed at sectarianism in football.

He was seen as intellectually capable – he held a doctorate from Gregorian University on the Council of Trent’s teaching on the Eucharist – and his most notable interest, away from the Church, was Celtic FC.

Philip Tartaglia was born on January 11, 1951, in Glasgow, the eldest son of Guido and Annita Tartaglia, who had four sons and five daughters; Philip’s brother Gerald also became a priest. He attended primary school at St Thomas’s, Riddrie, and on to St Mungo’s Academy, before enrolling in the national junior seminary at St Vincent’s College, Langbank.

He proceeded to St Mary’s College at Blairs, Aberdeen, before going on to the Scots College in Rome, where he also studied at the Gregorian University, taking a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and Philosophy.

He was ordained priest on June 30, 1975, at the Church of our Lady of Good Counsel in Dennistoun by Thomas Winning, the then Archbishop of Glasgow.

Tartaglia continued his studies in Rome, embarking on a doctorate in sacred theology, and in 1976 he was appointed dean of studies at the Pontifical Scots College, where he also took on the role of vice-rector.

In 1980, he obtained his doctorate and returned to Scotland to become assistant priest at our Lady of Lourdes in Cardonald. While there, he also served as a lecturer at St Peter’s College in Newlands, where, after a year, he transferred full-time.

In 1983, he became director of studies and two years later became the inaugural vice-rector of Chesters (later Scotus) College in Bearsden. In 1987, he became its rector.

In 1995, Tartaglia moved to St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, as assistant priest and two years later became the parish priest of St Mary’s, Duntocher, where he spent almost a decade.

In 2004, he returned to the Scots College in Rome as its rector, though he was there for only a year before being appointed bishop of Paisley in September 2005.

He was consecrated by Mario Conti at St Mirin’s that November, on the Feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King.

He gained attention for his vocal criticism of divorce, same-sex partnerships and the Gender Recognition Act, and in his capacity as president of the Bishops’ Conference’s National Communications Commission wrote to every parish in Scotland to condemn the increasing secularisation of the country, arguing that, though more than two-thirds of Scots were Christians of some form or another, faith received little consideration in the media or political discourse.

This led some commentators to speculate that he might be a candidate for the See of Westminster (which eventually went to Vincent Nichols) after Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s retirement in 2009.

But in 2012 he succeeded Mario Conti as Archbishop of Glasgow, being installed in St Andrew’s Cathedral on the Feast on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in September that year; the following year he received the pallium from Pope Francis at a Mass in St Peter’s in Rome.

He incorporated in his arms as Archbishop the emblem of Glasgow’s fish, with a ring in its mouth, and the colours of the Italian flag.

Philip Tartaglia tested positive for Covid-19 a week before his death, and had been self-isolating at home.

He died suddenly on January 13, exactly 1,407 years after the death of Glasgow’s patron saint St Mungo (or Kentigern), and two days after his own 70th birthday.