In three extensive addresses delivered over the weekend, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Muller, has offered words of great encouragement to Scotland's Catholics.
In an address to priests at Motherwell Cathedral, the Prefect encouraged them to continue to work quietly and effectively in parishes. He quoted the following passage: "The Church is, sad to say, represented on occasion by those of its members who are seen to fall dramatically, and whose misdeeds, as a result, receive enormous attention. But the Church is also that ‘entire forest’ of good men and women, their lives, their deeds unsung and, for the most part, unnoticed by the wider world, countless hundreds and thousands of them, flourishing with their own grace, their own courage: an entire forest growing up in silence.”
He added: "It is not by accident that what drew the great Scottish poet, George Mackay Brown, to become a Roman Catholic was the impressive devotion of the ordinary men and women he witnessed at Mass here in Scotland, the manifest strength of their faith in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Writing, on one occasion, concerning the people he saw making their way up to the altar to receive Communion, he remarked: “old blind men and beautiful young girls, youths in Air Force uniform and schoolgirls … I have never witnessed anything like it in any other Church … The Catholics have a beautiful faith, and they enter into it with all their hearts and souls.” And writing, in another place, he has this to say: "That such an institution as the Church of Rome - with all its human faults - had lasted for nearly two thousand years, while parties and factions and kingdoms had had their day and withered, seemed to me to be utterly wonderful. Some mysterious power seemed to be preserving it against the assaults and erosions of time."
Later, at a Mass in St Andrew's Cathedral the Archbishop paid tribute to Catholic teachers and students and spoke out strongly in favour of Catholic schools. He said: "The idea that Catholic Schools are dangerous because they promote segregation can be disproved by forming young people who will become model citizens, agents of unity, promoters of true human well-being - but they will only be able to do this if they are imbued with Christ, one with Him, formed by His teaching and true friends of His."
"Today then is a good day for us to look afresh at our wonderful schools. By making them places of encounter with Christ we are really serving our children, their families and our society as well. We are building for the future. So I would encourage you, in your school communities, to try to enable in every way possible that Catholic teachings are taught, that the Scriptures are read, that the Sacraments are celebrated and that the most holy Eucharist is ever present."
Finally in a landmark address at Glasgow University, the Archbishop spoke warmly of the new St Andrew's Foundation, launched last weekend. He said: “Catholic Education is acknowledged by both Church and State as a fundamental right and primary responsibility of Catholic parents - the first educators of their children. In accordance with this fundamental right, the State has the duty and responsibility to facilitate the wishes of Catholic parents to educate their children according to their desire to pass on their faith to their children...
"In the midst of so many diverse and at times bewildering versions of educational aims and processes, the Church has a rich and vital vision to proclaim. At its heart is an ideal of the person as called to love and friendship - with God and with fellow humans as bearing his image. Catholic education is an expression of a Catholic culture that is ever drawing upon the richness of its Tradition and the cultures of the ages, ever seeking to renew and re-state itself, and always conscious that it does so within the pedagogical mission of God himself in the world. It is a vision that needs to be heard in the world as the Church seeks to serve the world that God loves."
Pope Francis's message to the priests and people of Scotland
Pope Francis has sent an encouraging message to the priests and people of Scotland which was delivered by Archbishop Muller at the launch of the St Andrew's Foundation. The text of the message is as follows:
The Most Reverend Gerhard Ludwig Müller
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
His Holiness Pope Francis was pleased to learn that you are to journey to Scotland for the Cardinal Winning Lecture at Glasgow University, and a meeting with the Catholic clergy.
Just as his beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI, strongly advocated Catholic education in Scotland during Mass in Glasgow in 2010, Pope Francis is happy to add his voice in support of Catholic education in the country. He asks you to convey his greetings to Catholic teachers and to those preparing them at Glasgow University, and his good wishes for the success of the Saint Andrew’s Foundation for Catholic teacher education. He sincerely hopes that the initiative will help promote and improve the quality of instruction - formal, catechetical and above all spiritual - given to future educators in the country’s Catholic schools.
In particular, His Holiness asks you to greet warmly all the Catholics of Scotland, especially the priests whom you will meet during your visit. Aware of recent challenges and of the crosses they have patiently borne, His Holiness earnestly prays for a renewal among them of truth, mutual pardon and charity through fidelity to the gospel message of conversion, for the good of all Scotland’s Catholics.
Invoking the intercession of Saint Andrew and Saint Margaret, the Holy Father willingly imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of courage and strength in the Lord.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone