CARDINAL ADDRESSES GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Cardinal O'Brien will address the Church of Scotland's General Assembly on  
Friday 21 May at 09.45 and refer to the need for Christians to serve one  
another.  
In a call for new thinking on the question of shared communion, he will say;  

"If we are to be truly in communion with each other, we should celebrate our  
differences, and the richness they bring, and be prepared to serve each  
other and allow ourselves to be served."  

He will also ask the Assembly to remember Scotland's shared Christian  
heritage and "go back to our roots before we go forward “ never forgetting  
our common ancestry!"  


Lastly, in a call for greater prayer amongst Christians, he will say;  

"we must indeed be a praying people. We must give God his place in our lives  
in this Christian country, Sunday by Sunday, and day by day. If we are  
praying as Christ prayed to the Father in heaven, then how can we ignore the  
plight of the unborn; how can we wage war; how can we kill one another;  
how can we stockpile weapons of mass destruction in our own country"  

Cardinal O'Brien's address ends with a call for prayer in Scotland's schools  
and renewed celebration of "the great Christian festivals as of old,  
especially Christmas and Easter" as well as a plea for recognition for St.  
Andrew's Day.  

The full text of Cardinal O'Brien's address is shown below.  

ENDS  

Note to Editors:  

1. Moderator, Dr Alison Elliot was with Cardinal O'Brien in Rome last  
October shortly after the announcement was made of her appointment as  
Moderator-Designate  

Peter Kearney  
Director  
Catholic Media Office  
5 St. Vincent Place  
Glasgow  
G1 2DH  
0141 221 1168  
pk@scmo.org  
www.scmo.org  

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND  

ADDRESS BY CARDINAL KEITH PATRICK O BRIEN  

ASSEMBLY HALL, MOUND PLACE, EDINBURGH  

FRIDAY 21 MAY 2004  

Introduction:  
My first words are those of thanks to the Moderator and to all of you  
gathered here at this General Assembly for your very  
warm welcome to me this morning.  

As it is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today, so it was a  
tremendous pleasure for me to have as my guests when I was created Cardinal  
by Pope John Paul II in Rome in mid-October of last year, so many guests  
from the Church of Scotland and other Churches. I should say rather than  
˜guests the word ˜friends “ as indeed friends they were and still are,  
including among them Dr Alison Elliot, the present Moderator of the General  
Assembly and then General Convenor of ACTS.  

I appreciate the time given to me this morning and I wish to use it well. I  
intend speaking of three things “ and to use a visual aid for each subject.  

Iona Silver “ back to our roots:  

When in Rome, one of the gifts which meant a great deal to me was this  
little compass of Iona Silver “ and the accompanying message, given by a  
former Moderator and his wife.  

The silver embraces a compass and the inscription reads: May the Iona  
Silver be a symbol of our common ancestry in the Celtic Church. May the  
Cardinal points of the compass help you on your way forward .  

This visual aid reminds me of the first point which I want to make to you  
this morning: let us go back to our roots before we go forward “ and never  
forget those roots and our common ancestry! When I use those words you  
might ask just where do we go back to? I think the answer is  
straightforward:  

(a) We must first of all go back to Jesus Christ and his teaching in the  
words of Sacred Scripture; we must go back to our shared baptism into Jesus  
Christ;  

(b) We must then go back to the great teaching tradition of the Christian  
Church. We have at our disposal those great creeds containing the doctrines  
of our faith: the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian  
Creed.  


(c) We must go back to that magnificent corpus of teaching from the  
writings of the fathers of the Church down through the early centuries when  
they elaborated on the teachings of the Christian faith in a very beautiful  
way.  


(d) And we must go back to both the teaching and the praying example of the  
Christian  

Church down through the centuries when Scotland was indeed very much a  
Christian  

country. Think of the great women and men of the past, including St  
Margaret of Scotland,  

the 900th anniversary of whose death we commemorated in 1993; St  
Ninian of Galloway  

whose 1600th anniversary we celebrated in 1997; St Columba of Iona  
and St Mungo of  

Glasgow whose 1400th anniversaries we recently celebrated; and do not  
forget our own  

John Duns Scotus from the Borders, whose theological thought and deep  
spirit of prayer  

had such an influence throughout Europe. Monasteries and abbeys dotted  
our countryside  

from north to south; magnificent cathedrals were erected so that the  
peoples of Scotland  

could join in suitable prayer and praise of Almighty God; the gospel  
was lived and spread  

from churches great and small throughout the land.  


We must go back and be aware of our common ancestry in the Christian faith  
as we attempt to move forward ever more closely, inspired by the prayer of  
Jesus Christ himself ˜that all may be one . We must be aware of our common  
Christian origin beginning with our common baptism into the Body of Jesus  
Christ, as we continue on our journey together ˜no longer strangers but  
pilgrims , as Pope John Paul II said here in Scotland over 20 years ago.  

Towel “ symbol of service:  

My next visual aid is this simple towel.  


It is not the exact symbol which I wanted to bring with me - that was a jug  
of water and a basin, along with the towel. My original thought was to take  
that jug and basin, kneel before the Moderator and wash her feet. In doing  
this, of course, I would have been trying to imitate the example of Jesus  
Christ whose words are still with us: If I have washed your feet, you  
should wash each other s feet. I have given you an example so that you may  
copy what I have done to you . The towel is a symbol of that service which  
I want to show to you today and throughout my ministry in this country as a  
Cardinal.  


When we consider where to go in the Scriptures to find the basis for our  
Sacrament of Communion, most people would immediately think of the Last  
Supper as the context “ that meal Jesus had with his friends on the night  
before his death. The words of institution which we use are from the  
Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper “ from Matthew, Mark and Luke. The  
Gospel of John is different “ he does have an account of the Last Supper but  
there is no mention at all in John s Gospel of bread and wine. Instead, the  
Last Supper is the context for the washing of the feet. I wonder if John,  
being the last one to write his Gospel, wanted to focus on the ultimate  
objective of Eucharist: ongoing, continuing love; ongoing, deepening unity.  


Perhaps John gives us a pattern to follow. We are invited to seek intimacy  
with the Body of Christ in one another, a unity that at present does not  
include the signs of bread and wine. Perhaps it is the will of Jesus that  
we should become so united in faith and love with him that we appreciate  
this model of service to achieve that unity.  


There is communion with the Body of Christ when Jesus takes bread and wine  
and says: This is my body; this is my blood; do this in memory of me .  
However there is also a deep communion when Jesus kneels before his  
disciples and washes their feet. This moment of tenderness is a moment of  
communion. In touching their bodies, Jesus recognises that each one is a  
temple of God, a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  


I believe that we have the mission to wash one another s feet as a reminder  
to us that we are God s own creation, temples of his living Spirit. As  
members of Christ s body, we yearn to be in communion. We love each other.  
If we are to be truly in communion with each other, we should celebrate our  
differences, and the richness they bring, and be prepared to serve each  
other and allow ourselves to be served.  


I think we must reach out also from our Christian gatherings to those of  
other faiths. None of us will ever forget the disastrous terrorist attacks  
in America on 11 September 2001. Sometime after that, I was with other  
Christian Leaders and other peoples of good faith in a mosque in Edinburgh.  
Naturally, we removed our shoes for prayer. We were immediately aware of a  
certain ˜levelling ! We united in prayer with our Muslim friends, realising  
that we were all creatures of an all-powerful creator; we needed the  
solidarity of one another; we were aware of our call to serve in love; and  
we needed one another in the war against international terrorism.  

Rosary “ our prayer together and on our own:  

The third symbol which I bring with me is that of a simple wooden Rosary.  

When gathering with leaders of other faiths at Dunblane a few years ago,  
each person present was asked to produce a symbol of their religion and  
speak to it. The symbol which I brought was that of a Rosary. My Rosary  
summed up for me the scriptural origins of my prayer in the ˜Lord s Prayer  
and the greetings to Mary in the ˜Hail Mary .  


From the beginning to the end in that prayer of the Rosary, I am brought  
through the great mysteries of our Christian faith and am aware that I am  
again going back to the roots of Christianity with that prayer having  
inspired people from the Middle Ages.  

But no matter how we pray or when we pray “ we must indeed be a praying  
people. We must give God his place in our lives in this Christian country,  
Sunday by Sunday, and day by day. If we are praying as Christ prayed to the  
Father in heaven, then how can we ignore the plight of the unborn; how can  
we wage war; how can we kill one another; how can we stockpile weapons of  
mass destruction in our own country. If we are people of prayer, can we  
pass by on the other side, while our neighbour is hungry, thirsty, homeless  
here in Scotland or in the Third World; can we shut our door when asylum  
seekers and refugees legitimately seek entry into our country?  


We must pray at home with our families; we must ensure that relationship to  
God in prayer is at the root of everything which goes on in our schools,  
Catholic and non-denominational; we must be aware that our peoples celebrate  
the great Christian festivals as of old, especially Christmas and Easter and  
remembering also the feast days of our great saints, especially St Andrew,  
our Patron. Our prayer must be at the root of all our action.  

Conclusion:  

In concluding my words this morning, I remind you again of these symbols:  
Iona Silver, a towel and Rosary beads.  

Let us get the relationship right between work and prayer, which ensures  
that prayer is all important in our lives and our good works follow. Let us  
always work as if all depends on us and pray as if all depends on God. And  
let us keep in mind also those words of the great St Benedict, founder of  
monasticism: To work is to pray .  

As we remember our common roots; as we remember that call to service which  
goes out to us all; let us also remember that basic importance of our prayer  
together. We go forward for our own good and for the good of all peoples;  
for the sake of our Churches and for those of other faiths and of none; for  
the ongoing growth of Christianity in our country and in the world, working  
together with all peoples of goodwill.  


May God bless the Moderator and this General Assembly in all your  
deliberations. May we all continue to pray and work together for the  
wellbeing of our nation and may the faith of all  peoples in our country strengthen and grow. Thank you most sincerely.  

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