The Christian Heritage of Scotland and the British Isles.
The name Benedict XVI selected for his pontificate has great symbolism. Taken from the Patriarch of Western Monasticism and co-patron saint of Europe, St Benedict of Nursia, it was a powerful reminder of the indispensable Christian roots of Europe’s culture and civilization, and represented the Pope’s desire for Europeans to reconnect with their own Christian heritage. In his address to the Queen at the greeting ceremony at the Palace of Holyrood House, Benedict XVI took the opportunity to draw attention to the ancient Christian roots of Scotland and the role that monarchy has had for centuries in fostering a Christian culture within in its realm. It is also significant that he alluded to the name ‘Holyrood’ from which the Abbey, in which shadow it sits, gave the palace its name – a name which is derived from the Holy Cross of Christ.
From His speeches
“The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the ‘Holy Cross’ and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years.” (Pope Benedict XVI’s Speech to the Queen Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, Thursday, 16 September 2010 12pm)
“In this magnificent Abbey Church dedicated to Saint Peter, whose architecture and history speak so eloquently of our common heritage of faith. Here we cannot help but be reminded of how greatly the Christian faith shaped the unity and culture of Europe and the heart and spirit of the English people.” (Pope Benedict’s addresses at the Ecumenical Celebration Westminster Abbey, Friday, 17 September 2010 8:15 pm)
And from His other Writings….
On the European constitution and its lack of reference to God:-
“The claim that a mention of the Christian roots of Europe would wound the feelings of the many non-Christians who live in this continent is not particularly convincing, since this basically involves a historical fact that no one can seriously deny. Naturally, this historical observation also contains a reference to the present, since the mention of the roots indicates the remaining sources of moral orientation, which is one factor in the identity of the formation known as ‘Europe’. Who would be offended by this? Whose identity is threatened thereby? The Muslims, who so often tend to be mentioned in this context, feel threatened, not by the foundations of our Christian morality, but by the cynicism of a secularized culture that denies its own foundations. Nor are our Jewish fellow citizens offended by the reference to the Christian roots of Europe, since these roots go back to Mount Sinai and bear the imprint of the voice that rang out on the mountain of God. We are united with the Jews in those great basic orientations given to man by the Ten Commandments. The same applies to the reference to God: it is not the mention of God that offends those who belong to other religions; rather, it is the attempt to construct the human community in a manner that absolutely excludes God.” (Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, P.32-33)
“Accordingly, the refusal to refer to God in the constitution is not the expression of a tolerance that wishes to protect the non-theistic religions and the dignity of atheists and agnostics; rather it is the expression of a consciousness that would like to see God eradicated once and for all from the public life of humanity and shut up in the subjective sphere of cultural residues from the past. In this way, relativism, which is the starting point of this whole process, becomes dogmatism that believes itself in possession of the definitive knowledge of human reason, with the right to consider everything else merely as a stage in human history that is basically obsolete and deserves to be relativized. In reality, this means that we have need of roots if we are to survive and that we must not lose sight of God if we do not want human dignity to disappear.” (Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, P.44-45)
Questions for reflection, discussion and further study:
- How has Christianity been a force for good in the past that has effectively shaped Scotland and its people?
- How does the ever increasing denial of our European Christian Heritage contribute to a desire to exclude God from our world today?
- How might a denial of your roots and your own history lead to a confusion of identity and a loss of any sense of common values?
 General audience, Wednesday, 27 April 2005; Reflection on the name chosen: Benedict XVI. Another reason for selecting the name Benedict was to create a spiritual bond with Benedict XV, a courageous and authentic prophet of peace, who steered the Church through the period of turmoil caused by the First World War.