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Cardinal Thomas Winning; Head of Catholic Church in Scotland

Obituaries

June 18, 2001|From Reuters

Cardinal Thomas Winning, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland who was both loved and loathed for his outspoken views, died Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. He was 76.

Winning had been discharged two days earlier from a hospital in Glasgow after treatment for a heart attack and appeared to be recovering well.

"He appeared to be in good spirits this morning, when his housekeeper heard a thud upstairs. Paramedics were called and they worked on him for 15 minutes, but there was nothing they could do. He was dead," a church spokesman said.

The cardinal's blend of religion and socialism, forged in the poverty of industrial Glasgow between the wars, earned him the nickname "Red Tom"--a reflection of his political views as much as the color of his robes.

Winning became archbishop of Glasgow in 1994 and raised the profile of the Catholic Church in predominantly Protestant Scotland.

As leader of Scotland's 750,000 Roman Catholics, he was not afraid to speak out on political issues.

He denounced the devolved Scottish parliament set up in 1999 as a failure and warned of "totalitarianism" lurking in Britain's ruling Labor party.

Last year he provoked an angry reaction from gay rights groups by appearing to compare the threat from the homosexual lobby in Europe to that of the Nazis during World War II.

Winning later said his remarks had been misrepresented. Gay rights groups were already angry with him for having called homosexuals "perverted." He supported a ban on schools teaching children about homosexuality.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was shocked and saddened to hear of Winning's death, a spokesman said.

"His strong moral leadership and commitment to social justice were renowned," Blair said in a statement. "His energy, commitment and passionate sense of the core values of the Catholic Church and faith were recognized by all. He will be greatly missed."

Winning's offer of resignation when he turned 75 last year was turned down by the Pope. Driven by a burning sense of duty, he refused to scale back his workload despite advancing years.

"I often wonder how I have the bloody cheek, where the courage comes from, to speak on issues I know will boomerang," he said in a recent interview.

The son of a coal miner who turned to making sweets to see his family through the Great Depression, Winning knew from an early age he wanted to be a priest. It was an unusual career choice in a city infamous for religious bigotry and sectarianism.

Even with the pressures of high religious office, he never lost his working-class roots. "You have always been what is called 'a man of the people,' " the Pope once told him.

As a theology student, Winning signaled his intention to be a troublesome priest, saying that stealing was justified in extreme circumstances.

"If you are going to be hungry, if you get to the stage of extreme hunger, anybody's property becomes yours because you have a right to survive," he wrote. "You can break into a bread van and steal a loaf. It would not be immoral to do that."

A regular on the green and white terraces of his beloved soccer team, Celtic, it was said the closest he came to tears during his elevation to cardinal was when he learned his team had been beaten by Raith Rovers in the Scottish League Cup.

Winning is survived by his sister, Margaret McCarron.

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