Scottish Parliament welcomes ‘deeply significant’ friendship agreement between Kirk and the Catholic Church

Politicians from all parties have welcomed a new statement of friendship between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church as an important moment in the nation's history.

The St Margaret Declaration, which was endorsed by the Church of Scotland at last week's General Assembly having already been approved by the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in Scotland, is seen as the culmination of a century of dialogue between the two traditions.

The Declaration, named in honour of Scotland's 11th century royal saint, Queen Margaret, is a "a decisive and irrevocable statement" of friendship between the two churches based on their shared faith in Christ.

Meeting at Edinburgh Castle, the site of St Margaret's Chapel, to signal their commitment to the St Margaret's Declaration of friendship are (left to right): Church of Scotland ecumenical officer Rev Dr John McPake; out going Principal Clerk of the Church of Scotland Rev Dr George Whyte; Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; Most Reverend Leo Cushley, Archbishop and Metropolitan of St Andrews and Edinburgh; and Rev Sandy Horsburgh, outgoing convener of the Church of Scotland's Ecumenical Relations Committee.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton lodged a motion with the Scottish Parliament this week commending the Church of Scotland and Catholic Church for the historic declaration and commitment to healing past decisions.

Mr Cole-Hamilton's motion was supported by a cross-section of MSPs including members of the SNP, Conservative, Labour and Scottish Green parties.

The initial signatories were Jackie Baillie, Colin Beattie, Jackson Carlaw, Sharon Dowey, Murdo Fraser, Kenneth Gibson, Pam Gosal, Ross Greer, Dr. Sandesh Gulhane, Bill Kidd, Monica Lennon, Stuart McMillan, Marie McNair, David Torrance, Annie Wells, and Martin Whitfield, with more MSPs expected to add their names in support of the motion.

The motion, which was approved by Holyrood, stated that the Scottish Parliament welcomed approval of the St Margaret Declaration and commended both churches for acknowledging the historic issues which have divided them.

It also commended the churches for refusing to be bound by the past and for "their desire to promote the healing of division within the life of the Scottish nation".

Important moment in history

Mr Cole-Hamilton commented: "This declaration of friendship marks a deeply significant moment both for the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church.

"It's also an important moment in Scottish history and one we should rightly acknowledge and celebrate, so it's wonderful to see the universal goodwill that has greeted this news.

"On behalf of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and indeed the Scottish Parliament, I'd like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to everyone involved in the St Margaret's Declaration."

The Declaration's approval by the General Assembly comes just weeks ahead of a joint mission to South Sudan where the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, will join Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a "pilgrimage of peace" to the world's youngest country where an estimated 400,000 people are believed to have died as a result of armed conflict, violence and natural disaster.

Archbishop Leo Cushley (left) and the Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, greet each other after the General Assembly approved St Margaret's Declaration.

Working towards a better society

Rev Ross Blackman, who was recently appointed convenor of the Church of Scotland's Ecumenical Relations Committee, commented: "The welcome offered to the Saint Margaret Declaration from many quarters has been hugely encouraging and we are particularly heartened by the motion presented in the Scottish Parliament.

"The Declaration reflects the desire of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland and the Church of Scotland to continue to journey together and to see the healing of division within our nation. The cross-party support for the motion reflects that same desire and we trust that this is symbolic of a willingness to work together in order to build a better society."