Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien today launched the St Ninian's Day Parade - a 'grand Scottish spectacle' to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to this country next month while also raising money for good causes at home and abroad. At the launch, the Cardinal was joined by the Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP.
The Holy Father arrives in Edinburgh on the morning of 16 September - St Ninian's Day - where he will meet Her Majesty The Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. As many as a billion people worldwide are expected to watch the event on television. To mark the occasion, Cardinal O'Brien has invited over a thousand pipers, hundreds of school children, dozens of historical characters plus two nominated charities to greet the Pope and entertain the crowds who'll gather in the capital that morning.
• The pipers will be drawn from bands from Scotland and further afield with particular emphasis on school and youth pipe bands. They'll lead the parade from Regent Road to Princes Street where they will play 'Highland Cathedral' as the Pope himself travels past in the Popemobile.
• The school children are the parade VIPs - they're invited form all 14 schools across the country named after St Ninian. That includes Catholic, Episcopalian and non-denominational schools.
• The historical characters will chart the history of Christianity in Scotland since the days of St Ninian himself 1600 years ago. Characters will include St Columba, St Margaret, Mary Queen of Scots, John Knox and, from more recent times, Eric Liddell, George Mackay Brown and Muriel Spark.
• The nominated charities that will benefit from fundraising at the parade are Marie Curie Cancer Care and Mary's Meals. Marie Curie has two hospices in Scotland – Glasgow and Edinburgh. It also has a network of nurses working in communities across Scotland. Mary's Meals sets up and runs school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education. It currently provides daily meals for 400,000 children in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The St Ninian's Day Parade will begin at 11am from Regent Road and will march along Princes Street concluding at 12.30pm with the arrival of the Holy Father himself in the Popemobile. The event is free and spectators are advised to arrive in plenty of time.
Cardinal O’Brien said: “In centuries gone by St Ninian’s Day was always a great occasion for national celebration and charitable giving. We’ve now got a fabulous chance to resurrect that noble Scottish tradition by raising money for two wonderful charities.”
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Minister for Culture and External Affairs, added: "The St Ninian's Day parade will be a wonderful occasion as crowds gather in the streets of Edinburgh to extend the world-renowned warm Scottish welcome to the Holy Father. This is a great opportunity for all of Scotland to celebrate the positive contribution all our faith communities make to the life of our nation."
Head teacher of St Ninian’s Primary School in Stirling, Elaine Wyllie, said: "The Pope's visit is of international importance. Our school is honoured to be taking part in the St Ninians Day parade and being amongst the first people to welcome him to Scotland. As a result of being invited to take part in the parade, we are currently working on a joint project with our local Catholic school, St. Mary's Bannockburn, to find out more about the life and times of St Ninian."
The founder and Chief Executive of Mary’s Meals, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, said: “The St Ninian's Day Parade promises to be a wonderful event, bringing together people from across Scotland to welcome the Pope. Mary's Meals is thrilled to have been chosen as one of the charities to benefit from the celebration and our staff and volunteers are looking forward to being involved on the day. Any monies raised by Mary's Meals will help provide school meals for hungry children in some of the world's poorest countries, enabling them to access education that will help them to escape poverty in the long term.”
For more information see: www.stniniansday.co.uk
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