Pope Francis presented special edition book on St Columba
Published on 27 October, 2017
Pope Francis has been gifted a special edition of a book about the missionary who introduced Christianity to Scotland.
The Moderator of the General Assembly, Right Rev Derek Browning, presented it to the head of the Roman Catholic Church at Vatican City in Rome, Italy yesterday.
The special edition of Columba’s Iona – a New History by historian, Dr Rosalind Marshall, contains a Spanish translation of the Columba poem for the Pontiff, who grew up in Argentina.
St Columba was an Irish abbot who founded the abbey on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland, 1,454 years ago.
It became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries.
Scholars there famously produced the Book of Kells, amongst other notable manuscripts at a time when libraries were a symbol of wealth and education uniquely owned by an elite few.
Legend has it that St Columba encountered the Loch Ness Monster and, invoking the name of God, commanded it to return to the depths.
The special edition of Dr Marshall’s book was commissioned by Dr Browning and the Iona Cathedral Trustees.
The Moderator said he wanted to give Pope Francis something to mark my visit that is “distinctly Scottish but also would bridge the ecumenical divide”.
“Columba is held in high regard, not only by the Roman Catholic Church, but also by the Church of Scotland and many of our churches are called St Columba to this day,” he added.
“The St Columba prayer contained inside the book has been translated into Spanish, the Pope’s native tongue, to make it extra special for him.
“He is a learned man, who is renowned for not having fancy tastes, so taking a simple book about Columba – a man who ties our two denominations together – seemed appropriate.”
Columba’s Iona – a new history was originally published by Sandstone Press in 2013 to mark the 1,450th anniversary of his arrival in Scotland.
Dr Marshall said: “I feel very honoured that one of my books has been chosen to gift to the Pope.
“It never crossed my mind that anything I had written would go to Rome.
“The fact it is being presented to the Pope, then put into a library at the Vatican, means a lot to me.“
Dr Marshall said she thoroughly enjoyed writing the book, which took three years.
“I found doing the research absolutely fascinating - seeing how Iona had changed from being Catholic and coming into the hands of the Iona Cathedral Trustees,” she added.
Very Rev Finlay Macdonald, chairman of the Iona Cathedral Trustees, said he was very pleased that the book had been gifted to Pope Francis.
“St Columba is part of our common Scottish Christian heritage so we came up with the idea of this special edition,” said the former Moderator of the General Assembly.
“It is a special book about a special place.”
A total of 25 copies of the special edition of the book have been published.
View the video of the meeting courtesy of the Vatican's News Service Rome Reports