We are delighted to have Cardinal O’Brien here with us today. His elevation to Cardinal by Pope John Paul II was fulsome recognition of his spiritual leadership. And together with the elevation of his predecessors, Cardinals Gray and Winning – and the 1982 visit to Scotland by Pope John Paul II – this was strong testimony to special place that Scotland has at the heart of the Catholic Church.
The Church has long recognised Scotland as a filia specialis, or ‘special daughter’. And in turn Scotland has much to be grateful for. It is no exaggeration to say that the nation of Scotland owes its identity and its survival to the recognition and support of the Catholic Church.
We celebrated these enduring ties in November when marking the 500th anniversary of the Sword of State – that magnificent gift from Pope Julius II to King James IV. Some thirteen years prior, Pope Alexander VI had given King James the Sceptre of Scotland in recognition of our statehood.
And we should all recall a very important piece of correspondence – the Declaration of Arbroath – from Scotland’s ‘community of the realm’ to Pope John XXII in 1320. A sign that Scots turned first to the Catholic Church when beginning their original National Conversation!
29. And Your Eminence, it was a pleasure to read from the Declaration at the ceremony in St Mary’s Chapel in honour of the Sword of State. I recall the passage you suggested, drawing attention to the special place of St Andrew in the calendar of saints:
“Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles – by calling, though second or third in rank – the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.”
Faith-based education in Scotland
Your Eminence, today I would like to focus my remarks on the importance of Catholic education and values in the modern Scotland. Particularly during Catholic Education Week, this issue deserves examination and praise. And more widely, I am particularly pleased to be able to use this lecture to make clear my unswerving support for faith-based education in Scotland.
Cardinal O’Brien is well aware that I have long been a supporter of the quality of faith-based education in this country – and a particular admirer of the contribution of Scotland’s Catholic schools. The Cardinal also understands, of course, that my advocacy for faith-based education extends beyond Catholic schools. I believe that here we are in full agreement on the tremendous role that faith schools can play in Scottish society.
And they do so by endowing our children with a strong moral foundation.
A positive and distinctive identity.A keen sense of personal responsibility and the common good.
A strong commitment to charity – the true meaning of which is helping others.
And belief in the basic principle that each of us can and should make a positive contribution to our world.
Today I will talk particularly about the work that Scotland’s Catholic schools have done to advance these noble values. And the central role that they retain in shaping a modern, compassionate and just nation. Before I do so, let me also pay tribute to all faith schools across our country. The work of each is equally important and valuable. And together they are enriching the identity of our people. And the fabric of this nation.
When I visited St Margaret’s School in Loanhead last November – to launch Scotland’s first ever Winter Festival – I was struck by pride that the children took in their faith, and their identification with the ethos of the school. These children were not just learning to be good students. They were learning to be good people. And in December, when I visited Calderwood Lodge Primary School – our Jewish faith school – I saw that, although they had a different faith, the children had an equal sense of belonging. And strong values and ideals. Both schools made me proud for the children they were educating. And I felt optimistic then – as I do today – about the future of these young people and their contribution to Scotland