He came later to the work of interfaith relations when in 2006 the Bishops’ Conference set up a committee for interreligious dialogue and he became both President and chair. At first, he was cautious, asking for advice and help in how to address people of other faiths, what was appropriate dress, what was expected when visiting places of worship etc. but he embraced the whole interfaith adventure as he had done the ecumenical one and soon felt at ease in his relationship with people of other faiths. This was because of his innate charm, friendliness, and out-going manner which drew people to him and made them feel at ease in his presence. He was loved within the interfaith world and many of our sisters and brothers in faith have phoned, texted or emailed to express their deep sorrow at his death and to pass on their condolences to the catholic community. All of them mentioned his charm, friendliness, wisdom, and clarity of thought.
Hospitality was a hallmark of Archbishop Mario and for many years, indeed until Covid stopped it, he hosted a reception for faith communities which was not only well attended but was considered an important event in the interfaith calendar. He was often advised at these gatherings not to let them go. Archbishop Mario was quick to accept invitations to visit places of worship, to meet with faith communities, to talk at important events such as the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Bah’a’ullah, to meet visiting dignitaries and to engage in dialogues such as the current one the committee for interreligious dialogue has with Ahl Al Bait Scotland, a Shiah Muslim group. Together we have studied the document on Human Fraternity for Peace in Our World and never did Archbishop Mario come to a meeting of that group unprepared. He was supportive of all the work of the committee and contributed to our annual colloquium which was intended to educate the Catholic community in the faith of others as well as interfaith issues. As well as this he participated in national interfaith events such as Holocaust Memorial Day, the twice annual meetings of the Scottish religious leaders Forum and the First Minister’s Annual Interfaith Symposium. His contribution was greatly respected, especially if he spoke his mind and was not limited by a government agenda.
Archbishop Mario was a good friend to me, both as an individual and as the secretary for interreligious dialogue for the Scottish Bishops. He supported me in good times and was always there to lend a listening ear and offer advice in difficult times - and there were some of those. We attended many events together and never did he fail to thank me or fail to show his appreciation for my work and contribution to interfaith relations in Scotland. We had good conversations, not always agreeing but respecting one another and his sense of humour made him very easy to be with. He has now entered the realm of the ancestors and has joined a small body of people who have gone before us in Scotland and continue to give those of us involved in interfaith relations the confidence to continue in their footsteps.
May his memory be a blessing to us all and an inspiration for the future of interfaith work within the Scottish Catholic Church and this nation.