BY Ian Dunn | February 15 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

13-UK-VATICAN-DELEGATION

Scottish Secretary on UK-Vatican commitment to religious freedom

“In Scotland we’re lucky to have Cardinal O’Brien,” Michael Moore says in exclusive interview with the SCO after ministerial visit to Holy See. Link to full UK-Vatican joint communiqué below.

The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore has exclusively spoken to the SCO about the UK Government’s commitment to working with the Vatican to improve religious freedoms at home and abroad.

Mr Moore was part of six-strong ministerial delegation (above) to the Vatican that concluded their two day visit today with the release of a joint communiqué that stated the ‘Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government agreed on the urgent need for action to strengthen the universal commitment to religious freedom as a fundamental human right, and to its practical application with a view to promoting respect for all religions in all countries.’

Religion and public life

Speaking from Rome, Mr Moore said that the ‘role of religion and faith in public life’ had been a key theme of the trip.

“We want to encourage the Catholic Church and indeed people of all denominations, faiths and none to feel part of the public discourse in the UK,” he said. “We may not always agree but it’s important that voice is there.”

Mr Moore said that Baroness Warsi’s speech to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, on Tuesday evening, which stressed the importance of Christianity to Britain’s culture, had been ‘very well received.’

‘Both the hierarchy and the priests studying at the college responded to it very positively,” he said. “I think what she was highlighting was the need for people of Faith to have the confidence to be involved in public debate. In Scotland we are lucky to have Cardinal O’Brien who has a very strong voice, but as politicians we don’t seek to crowd anyone out of public debate, as a Liberal Democrat I feel very strongly about that.”

Mr Moore said it had also been a ‘great honour for me, as the son of a Church of Scotland minister,’ to meet with Pope Benedict XVI this morning and he had taken the opportunity to thank him for his visit to Scotland in 2010. He added that it had been that Papal visit which had prompted the UK Government to seek closer ties with the Vatican.

“The Papal visit was hugely important,” he said. “I think even the Pope was impressed by the reception he got, and we realised that it was important to strengthen our ties with the Vatican. I think the size of the ministerial delegation, which I believe is the largest of its kind to visit the Vatican from any country, underscores how seriously we are taking that.”

He went on to say that overt the course of the visit he had found several areas of mutual interest which had given he and his fellow ministers some ‘ambitious things to go away and work on.’

“I think around international development there is a lot of shared ground,” he said. “Even in opposition I was very aware of the work of the Catholic church does to fight poverty all over the world and we have a shared agenda there we want to collaborate on.”

Scotland’s future

The Scottish Secretary also said that he had also had a one-on-one meeting with Mgr Peter Wells of the Secretariat of State’s Section for General Affairs in which they discussed the prospect of Scottish independence.

“They have been following the constitutional debate over Scotland’s future at the Vatican,” he said. “And he was interested in the developments of the past year and a half, I of course sought to be as neutral as possible! But I did stress that once we get past the current dispute over process it will be a matter for the Scottish people to decide.”

— Full text of joint communiqué click here.

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