Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen has said he was “touched and somewhat surprised” to be elected last week president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.
It is a position usually held by an archbishop or cardinal. Speaking to The Tablet, he said: “The role is for three years. It should not be inflated; it does not make any bishop ‘leader of the Church in Scotland’. Such a position is fictional. The leaders are the eight bishops in their own dioceses, not to mention Pope Francis.”
Bishop Gilbert said that the bishops’ conference was “an expression of collegiality, and over the last years a strong tradition of collegial action has developed. This will continue.”
Bishop John Keenan of Paisley was elected vice-president and Bishop Brian McGee as episcopal secretary; they will also serve for three years.
In a statement, Bishop Gilbert said that he accepted “the mandate given to me, aware of the challenges the Church faces, while conscious of the great treasures she holds and continues to offer as a point of reference in an often disoriented world”.
Born in Hampshire in 1952, Hugh Gilbert joined the novitiate of the Benedictine Order at Pluscarden Abbey in 1975. He was ordained as priest in 1982, taking on various duties at Pluscarden, including sub-prior, novice master and prior, before succeeding Dom Alfred Spencer as abbot in 1992, a post he held until he was appointed Bishop of Aberdeen by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.
Bishop Gilbert said that “personal ‘mission statements’ have no place here. I simply look forward to exploring with my fellow bishops and the members of our various agencies ways of proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ and keeping the fire of faith alight for the good of our people and society. May I ask the prayers of all who care for Scotland.”