At a Mass at 12.45pm in St. Mary's Cathedral today, Cardinal-designate Keith Patrick O'Brien spoke in his sermon of the importance of family life and the challenges it faced, among them;
"the prospect of legalisation equating same-sex partnerships with marriage, as well as a dramatic fall in our birthrate, as couples choose to postpone children or prevent them altogether."
In a challenge to the Scottish Justice Minister, the cardinal-elect said;
"Some few days ago, the Court of Appeal scrapped the offence of shameless indecency', normally used to prosecute men who prey on teenage boys. This leaves a loophole in the law and removes protection for our children and I urge the Scottish Executive to review this matter urgently."
Cardinal-designate O'Brien continued by drawing a parallel with the family and the "Family of the Church" also facing challenges and difficulties. Speaking of what he described as friendly fire' from those within the Church, he said;
"At times, we all have to put up with and endure attacks from outside and sometimes there are more than enough of these. But it is particularly tragic if there is ongoing sniping from within, that so-called friendly fire' from those who are united with us in the Sacrament of Baptism within the body of our own Church."
He reminded the congregation that such behaviour had always affected the Church, when he quoted St. Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians;
" All the same, I do appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice". (1Cor. 1,10).
Cardinal-designate O'Brien continued with a plea for unity;
"When there are so many other battles to face in the world at this present time in a world where so much is threatened even our very existence, surely as Christians living in a secular society we must be ever more united not only in our love of God, in our desire to serve Jesus Christ, but in our love for one another in the Church."
The Cardinal-designate concluded with a call to prayer and a tributeto Pope John Paul II, saying;
"the right relationship between work and prayer is not that work is all important and prayer helps but rather that prayer is all important and our good works flow from our lives of prayer. Pope John Paul II is a living example of this throughout his life in particularly during the 25 years of his Pontificate. Prayer is at the centre of his life and he has frequently echoed a call to prayer to us all."
Before delivering his sermon, Cardinal-designate O'Brien had joined with Fr. John Agnew (being installed as a new Canon in the Cathedral) in reciting a 'Profession of faith' or statement of belief, which concluded:
"I firmly hold and maintain all and everything taught by the Holy Catholic Church concerning faith and morals,....especially those doctrines touching the mystery of the Church as the Body of Christ, the Sacraments, the sacrifice of the Mass and the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff."
Following the Mass at the Cathedral Cardinal-designate O'Brien, travelled to the home of Frank and Lorraine Cusack (Mrs Cusack is the daughter of the Cardinal-elect's housekeeper Mrs. Theresa Muldoon) where he met the couple's four day old baby son; Adam James Keith Cusack. The baby was born last Friday 3 October and the couple decided to give their son the middle name Keith in celebration of the fact that he was born in the week of the announcement that the Archbishop of St. Andrew's and Edinburgh was to become a Cardinal.
Cardinal-designate O'Brien commented;
" I am delighted to meet Adam James Keith and share the joy of his family at his safe arrival. His presence underlines for me the God given miracle of life which as a society we should cherish at all times"
Note to editors: Photographs of the Cardinal-designate with the baby and his two year old brother Frankie are available from Paul McSherry ( 07770 393960).
The full text of the sermon is given below:
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Sermon at St. Mary's Cathedral
for the installation of Fr. John Agnew to the Chapter of Canons:
I welcome you to our Cathedral today on this the Memorial of Our Ladyof the Rosary. This Feast Day concludes the Year of the Rosary called by our Holy Father Pope John Paul 11.
As you have heard, both the newly-installed Canon John Agnew and I haverenewed our professions of faith and our desire to live true to the teachings of our Church in communion with Pope John Paul II. This has been appropriate for Canon John as he begins his period of service as a Canon and continues with his role as parish priest of St John the Baptist's, Fauldhouse. It is also particularly appropriate for me, as it is the first opportunity since the announcement of my appointment as Cardinal that I have had of concelebrating Mass with the members of our Metropolitan Cathedral Chapter and of publicly stating my desire to serve God and his people, especially Pope John Paul II as a Cardinal in our Church.
On this occasion my thoughts turn towards our own immediate families as well as to that greater family of the Church to which we are privileged to belong through our baptisms into the body of Jesus Christ. I wish to speak about family life and life as a member of our other family, the family of the Church.
Obviously I do not know so very much about the family lives of each one of you gathered here today, either the members of the Chapter or the congregation especially the family and friends of Canon John and those from the various parishes in which he has served.
But I do share some few facts about my own family life. As you may know I was born and brought up in Ballycastle in the North of Ireland in idyllic scenic surroundings. I was blessed through the loving union of my parents Mark and Alice and my younger brother Terry. Having been born in 1938 my father had regular absences from home because of the Second World War. Consequently his homecomings were events always to be looked forward to. Our happy home life continued in Glasgow and then in Edinburgh where unfortunately after one year there my mother died rather suddenly and tragically in the Royal Infirmary because of some little known brain infection.
I mention in reasonable detail my own family life. And I know that a similar family life was shared by very many of you of my own age group.
My family life began some 65 years ago. Perhaps we should consider on this occasion just what a change has occurred within our lifetimes. I do not need to recount for you in detail the many tragedies in family life which occur at this present time. But we all must be aware that today marriage and the family face many threats. There is a growingunwillingness on the part of our young people to form lasting relationships, there is the prospect of legalisation equating same-sex partnerships with marriage, and there is a dramatic fall in our birthrate, as couples choose to postpone children or prevent them altogether. Further we must always be alert to possible legislation further diminishing the possibility of our young people ever leading normal family lives. Some few days ago, the Court of Appeal scrapped the offence of shameless indecency', normally used to prosecute men who prey on teenage boys. This leaves a loophole in the law and removes protection for our children and I urge the Scottish Executive to review this matter urgently.
I ask you to be aware that as President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, our Bishops will continue to speak out fully in support of marriage and family life. I ask all of you to support us in this task with your prayers and proposals of how best we can support married couples and their families
Family of the Church:
As well as our own "home family" I know that most of us here have benefited from being members of the family of the Church from an early age. Again I was blessed in particular in having had my early education from religious sisters before going on to the local Catholic primary school and then enjoying Catholic secondary schools in St Patrick's, Dumbarton and Holy Cross Academy, Edinburgh.
The ethos of my Catholic home was continued in the ethos of our Catholic schools. Having been nurtured in the faith from an early age that nurturing continued into childhood, adolescence and adulthood. There was continuity there was stability.
Thank God we still have that family of the Church helping us now as some of us continue to grow into a more mature age.
One thing which does affect many of us, however, from time to time, is what I described at the Chrism Mass in our Cathedral on Tuesday 15 April of this year, as friendly fire'. That phrase has been handed on to us from recent tragic wars including the war in Iraq. Simply stated: it is bad enough being shot by an enemy, but it is particularly tragic if one is shot by a colleague in one's own army or by coalition forces. Similarly, with regard to the body of the lay faithful in the Church or the body of the priesthood. At times, we all have to put up with and endure attacks from outside and sometimes there are more than enough of these. But it is particularly tragic if there is ongoing sniping from within, that so-called friendly fire' from those who are united with us in the Sacrament of Baptism within the body of our own Church.
When we think back to the history of the early Church even at the time of the apostles this friendly fire' has always been with us. We can think of the letters of St Paul, especially at the beginning of his First Letter to the Corinthians. There he wrote (1Cor. 1,10): "All the same, I do appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice".
When there are so many other battles to face in the world at this present time in a world where so much is threatened even our very existence, surely as Christians living in a secular society we must be ever more united not only in our love of God, in our desire to serve Jesus Christ, but in our love for one another in the Church. Surely we must be evermore united in our ongoing family life in the Church strengthened by Mass and the Sacraments and by our daily prayer.
Our gathering today with the Metropolitan Cathedral Chapter including our new Canon, Canon John Agnew, is a reminder of the value of prayer in the Church at this present time.
The main responsibility of the Canons of our Chapter is not to engage in material work although that is sometimes required of them. Canons are not expected to be members of our finance and fabric and planning committees; of our mission societies or of our Justice & Peace groups; or of other agencies of the Church in our Archdiocese. As I have indicated sometimes they are members of these various groupings but their particular responsibility is to be along with myself people of prayer. I always remember the phrase which
indicated: the right relationship between work and prayer is not that work is all important and prayer helps but rather that prayer is all important and our good works flow from our lives of prayer.
Pope John Paul 11 is a living example of this throughout his life in particularly during the 25 years of his Pontificate. Prayer is at the centre of his life and he has frequently echoed a call to prayer to us all whatever the work, study or travel in which he is engaged.
During this recent year, the Year of the Rosary, he has asked us to consider more than ever the value of that great family prayer of the Rosary which we can recite in church or in school, in home or on our travels. We thank God also for the gift of those five "Mysteries of Light" helping us to focus on the public life of Jesus Christ and of the example which he and his mother Mary give to us.
I am sure that that prayer of the Rosary has helped us all during our own spiritual journeys. I am sure that it has helped Canon John in his service in our own Archdiocese and in his magnificent service in Bauchi in Northern Nigeria; and it has helped me in my own life of service in the Church.
May that same prayer continue to bind us all evermore closely together in our love of the Lord and of his mother, realizing as we do that we are ever more closely bound up in the mystery of the love of God, as we go forward in our Church which is the presence of Jesus Christ on earth.