Elevation of Cardinal O'Brien : Saturday 29 November 2003
Your Eminence, Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege to be here today at this National Thanksgiving mass. The elevation of Keith Patrick O'Brien's to the College of Cardinals is indeed an occasion for national thanksgiving.
It is a great personal honour for Cardinal O'Brien to be the only the third Scottish Roman Catholic clergyman to become a Cardinal since the Reformation. His appointment is a measure of the high esteem in which he is held by everyone in the Church and beyond.
But the elevation of Cardinal O'Brien is also a great honour for Scotland. This recognition of the importance of the Catholic Church in Scotland today, and the importance of Scotland inside the Catholic Church, is a tribute to the efforts of so many people over the years and a significant signal to our small community.
I first met Keith O'Brien when he served with me on the Annual Conference of the University of Stirling back in the 1980s. My wife, Bridget, has earlier memories of an enthusiastic young Assistant Priest at St Patrick's in Kilsyth in 1972.
We both remember the same qualities which today make Keith O'Brien such a great ambassador for the Church : compassion, integrity, a commitment to service and a personal manner which is always warm and welcoming.
Cardinal O'Brien has a great empathy for people regardless of where he is. I have noted his wise words in public and private over the years, but my mother-in-law remembers his ability to ignore the 7 weans causing havoc during house visits and provide counsel and advice. He is also a man of action and his boundless energy will stand him in good stead for the challenges ahead.
One of the biggest challenges facing Scotland at the start of the 21st century is how we can build respect back into Scottish society. Government has a role to play in showing leadership, but we cannot and should not - shoulder that responsibility on our own.
I believe that it is particularly important that we help our young people understand the importance of self-respect and respect for others. The modern world has thrown up many complex challenges for all of us, but I think it is our children who often have the most difficult decisions to make
as they move from childhood to adulthood. As a nation we cannot shirk from our responsibility to help them grow into happy, fulfilled adults.
When we met in Rome last month, Cardinal O'Brien and I talked about our shared belief that strong families and strong, caring communities are an ideal worth striving for - and I look forward to working with him over the coming years on this and other issues that are crucial to the well-being of our nation.
Today we offer our thanks for the appointment of Scotland's third Cardinal, and for the elevation of a good man to a great position. Your Eminence, congratulations and best wishes. You are proud of your adopted country Scotland, but today Scotland is proud of you.
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