EMBARGO - WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER - 2PM
Cardinal Keith O'Brien will visit the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. On Wednesday (1st November) he will give the "Time for Reflection" in the Parliament's debating chamber. He will also meet all four main party leaders (Jack McConnell - Labour, Nicola Sturgeon - SNP, Annabelle Goldie - Conservative and Nicol Stephen - Lib Dem) as well as attending a lunch hosted by the Presiding Officer, George Reid. In the evening he will host a dinner for MSP's.
The text of the reflection is shown below.
Cardinal O'Brien; "Christian beliefs still cherished".
Time for Reflection Scottish Parliament Address by Cardinal Keith Patrick O Brien Wednesday 1 November 2006
Within the pressurised world of politics it is difficult sometimes to find time to pause and to reflect and to remember that outwith these walls lies the society you serve “ a society where, according to the last census, 67% of the population describe themselves as Christians.
Scottish society may no longer be as homogeneous as it once was “ and our new diversity and multi-ethnic character is something to be celebrated “ but it remains the case that a bedrock of belief still underpins our society. Those beliefs are Christian beliefs.
Clearly in recent decades affiliation to and participation in the lives of our various Christian churches has fallen. Attendance rates between 1980 and 1990 were down 18% and between 1990 and 2001 fell by 19%. This fall in the number who actively worship is a matter of some sadness to me and to my fellow Christians. In an age when social mores have changed so radically, however, it is perhaps not surprising. Our 24/7 economy leaves people with many Sunday alternatives to church. A reduction in active observance however should not be confused with a rejection of Christian beliefs and values.
I think it should also be noted that in the same period from 1979 to 2003 turn-out at general elections in Scotland has fallen by almost 40% and at local government elections there has been a devastating loss of interest in the electoral process. Sadly also at the last Scottish Parliament election less than half of our fellow citizens bothered to vote.
We should not, however, conclude from these depressing statistics that Scots have stopped believing in democracy any more than we would presume from the statistics that they have rejected Christianity!
Though a new generation may not esteem the prize of universal suffrage in the same way their parents or grandparents did “ they still know, deep down, that representative democracy is a very good thing “ which if threatened they would rush to defend.
I ve had cause to question recently, the conventional wisdom suggesting the Christian churches are increasingly marginal in society. In recent weeks an interview I gave to a respected Scottish philosopher, which was printed in a Catholic newspaper, led to a front-page story in a national Sunday newspaper. This in turn led to several days of intense media coverage, surprising many at how much interest there was in the views of a Christian church leader and cementing my view that the Christian voice in Scotland carries further than many realise.
So too with the Christian faith which helped forge our national identify from the arrival of Ninian at Whithorn 1600 years ago, then Columba and Mungo some 1400 years ago, to the relics of Andrew brought ashore in mediaeval Fife. And now we have the symbolism of the building of this Scottish Parliament. I would suggest that Scotland is Christian to its very bones.
A new well-fed and comfortable generation able to live daily lives largely free of fear or threat may feel less inclined to rush to the polls or to the pews than their forebears did. They may feel content as in so many other walks of life to be armchair participants BUT the beliefs which allowed our polling stations and our places of worship to be built and valued in the first place are with them also.
Long may that continue!
Catholic Media Office
5 St. Vincent Place
0141 221 1168