Cardinal O Brien calls on Catholics to make their voices heard and urges increased action on the part of Christians in Scottish society.
In a series of homilies, which he will preach throughout the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh during Lent, cardinal Keith O Brien will urge Catholics to be prepared for increased action as Christians . In a series of challenges to the faithful he will highlight the dangers of the Scottish Executive s draft Sexual Health strategy, urge parents to speak out in the promotion and defence of Catholic schools and point out failings in the Government s Asylum and Immigration Bill.
The sermons, for Lent 2004 will be preached at six Masses held in each area of the Archdiocese. The text is shown below:
"Since my last series of Lenten Station Masses much has happened in my life, as you know. I value this opportunity of visiting the various areas of our Archdiocese during this season of Lent, concelebrating Lenten Masses with my brother priests, and then meeting you all informally afterwards.
What I wish to remind you of on the occasion of this Lenten Station Mass is quite simply that our journey toward Christ and the Sacraments is a journey toward love. Among the last words of Jesus to his Disciples are those beautiful words recorded by St John: What I command you is to love one another . We must heed these words.
As you know shortly after my own appointment as Cardinal I indicated that following on this appointment I would see a greater opportunity to serve God and his people “ both at home and abroad. I have tried to do this over the past six months.
I have had the opportunity to visit Africa and see two of the poorest countries of the world, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also to Romania where much poverty is still evident.
But what can we say about the situation in our own country at this present time.
Perhaps it is true to say that we suffer at this present time “ but we suffer from luxury fever . So many of the people in our own country have more money than ever before, money spent not on necessities for ourselves nor for others but rather to indulge our own passing whims. And we know that in our own country there is not that great desire to love one another or to serve one another in the priesthood, in religious life or in many other ways in our parishes as members of the lay faithful. In our own country while there is no longer great material poverty there is certainly a deep spiritual poverty. We must indeed consider this during the season of Lent and think of what we are called to do.
CALL TO ACTION:
I simply suggest two things in my Lenten Call to Action .
Firstly we must each consider our own spiritual poverty at this present time. There is still a deep spiritual poverty which we must try to satisfy by both prayer and penance. These are the traditional ways of the Church, taught by Christ himself, to bring us closer to him.
Secondly, we must always be prepared for increased action as Christians. There have been recent opportunities and there will be more in the future. I indicate three areas of special concern about which I have taken action “ and I ask you the priests, religious and the people of the diocese to do the same.
(1) The recently published, Scottish Executive Sexual Health and relationships draft Strategy “ was an open consultation. The draft Strategy however adopted an approach to sexual behavior, which divorces sexuality entirely from any moral context. Nowhere in the document is love, marriage, faithfulness or commitment endorsed or promoted. The document is dismissive of education on abstinence, suggests contraception should be promoted even more and abortion made more easily available. In short the document is utterly at variance with Catholic teaching, Christian Morality and common sense.
I ask you to consider whether or not you made a response to this document?
An especially glaring flaw in the strategy is the suggestion that the SHARE programme promoted by the Healthy Respect initiative in the Lothians should be extended throughout Scotland. This approach has failed utterly to tackle the rise in STI s, unwanted conceptions and abortion levels. Its value-free style should certainly not be used elsewhere in Scotland.
(2) There have been and are ongoing discussions in various areas of our Archdiocese regarding Catholic schools “ either on their own campus or on a shared campus site. Along with my brother Bishops I have consistently supported our Catholic school system and will continue to do so “ as Bishops however we can do little to maintain our schools without the support of Catholic parents. Again, I ask you “ have you made your voice heard when there has been discussion in your own area about the future of Catholic schools for your own children or your children s children?
(3) In our own country at this present time our MP s are considering the asylum and immigration Bill which will demonstrate whether or not the stranger is welcome in our midst . Refugees are normally victims of injustice and they should be protected in our midst whilst their claims are examined. They should be protected to the standards outlined in the United Nations Refugee Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The new Bill in Parliament regrettably, in some areas, falls short of these standards. I ask you to consider what you have done or what you are doing with regard to the possibility of increased numbers of refugees and asylum seekers coming to Scotland?
The way ahead is not easy for us as Christians in the world of today. However we must remember that it has never been an easy path following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
God has indeed called us to a wonderful vocation. May we embrace that vocation with joy remembering those words which I chose from Psalm 99 as my own motto as Archbishop some eighteen years ago: Serve the Lord with Gladness “ may we all indeed serve the Lord, and the Lord s people with joy and with gladness!"
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