At the Scottish Parliament last night, 28th November 2018, hundreds of representatives from various Catholic Church agencies across Scotland attended an event at the Scottish Parliament. The event was organised by Elaine Smith MSP & Anthony Horan of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office also supported by cross party politicians including Aileen Campbell MSP Cabinet Secretary and others. Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB, delivered the following speech during the event:
Cabinet Secretary, Members of Parliament, my fellow-bishops, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I imagine that Members of Parliament and Ministers of Government often feel the need to provide accurate information as to what they actually do, and realistically can do. There are misconceptions about the role of government and the remit of the legislature. And, on the side of the Church, the same need is often felt to dispel misunderstandings and offer reliable information – to bridge the chasm of ignorance.
So we bishops of Scotland are very grateful to Elaine Smith, MSP, for sponsoring this event, to Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, for her presence this evening and to all of the Parliamentarians here present – not to mention our indefatigable Parliamentary Officer Mr Anthony Horan – for this opportunity to showcase at least something of what we do.
We have seen the film and the stalls await you.
The Church is an institution, certainly: a world-wide one, of ancient origin, complex, many-faceted, very much alive. We call it in our Creed the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. It views itself as constantly sustained by the living person of Jesus Christ, by his truth and grace, and as tasked with sharing that treasure with the rest of humanity. But in the end or on the ground, it is people. It’s names, faces, bodies and souls. It is people helping people, not just from cradle to grave, but from before birth to after death, and everything in between. I’m constantly amazed by the breadth, depth and variety of this, here in Scotland too. What we could never do as individuals we can do together. This mutual help embraces the spiritual, liturgical, educational, psychological, social, charitable and more. It runs all the way from prayer to food banks, from the kind word to the very hands-on practical, from here to places in the world hit by disaster or oppression. It’s often parallel or complementary to the social provision of Government and the many agencies of civil society and the good works of our fellow-Christians of other denominations. At the same time it has its own specific character and can sometimes enter places no one else goes. The word ‘Catholic’ means universal. And I think all of what is on display this evening does reflect a desire to reach out and create unity. I sometimes stand at the back of my Cathedral in Aberdeen after a Sunday Mass, wishing I knew how to speak not just in English (or Doric!), but also in Gaelic, Hungarian, Portugese, Konkani, Spanish, Igbo, Lithuanian, French, Malayalam, Polish and all the rest. But it is a beautiful thing that our worship has already brought these people together. At our best, all we want to be is at the service of each and every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, endowed with an innate dignity and inalienable rights, which neither we nor the law nor government create, but which we can strive to recognise and serve. So much to do, but we keep beginning. I hope this display will give you a glimpse of that.
Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB