Mass to mark Tom’s honour

Tom Clarke is being honoured by the Pope
Tom Clarke is being honoured by the Pope

Former MP Tom Clarke has issued an open invitation for people to attend an event celebrating his papal knighthood.

Mr Clarke served as an MP from 1982 until last year’s general election, latterly in the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill constituency.

It brought an end to a long and successful political career which included a stint as Minister of State for Film and Tourism under Tony Blair.

He also served as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland under the late John Smith.

Earlier this year it was announced that he was to be awarded the honour of Knight of St Gregory the Great by Pope Francis - one of the highest honours in the Catholic Church.

Bishop Toal, of the Diocese of Motherwell, will officially present him with the award at a Special Mass at St Augustine’s Church, in Coatbridge (next to the Time Capsule), on Thursday, September 1.

Mr Clarke is keen to extend an invitation to attend the mass to all former constituents, whatever their political beliefs or religion.

He said: “I was deeply humbled by Pope Francis’s decision to recognise me in this way and I am delighted to be taking receipt of this honour, but it is one that is also meant for the whole community.

“I could not have achieved anything without their support, advice and loyalty over so many years and I am hoping that as many of them as possible will be able to join me for the occasion.”

No ticket is required for entry to the event, which will start at 7pm.

Bishop Toal said Mr Clarke was “a most worthy recipient” of the Papal honour, explaining: “Tom served as a Member of Parliament from 1982 until 2015.

“Throughout all of that time Tom Clarke sought inspiration from his devout Catholic faith in determining how he should vote on a wide variety of parliamentary issues especially his work on disability rights, overseas development and the pro life cause.”

It is expected that Mr Clarke will have an audience with the Pope at the Vatican later this year.