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5-SCIAF

Papal knighthood for first SCIAF director

By Amanda Connelly

The former director of SCIAF, Duncan MacClaren, last week received the prestigious honour of a Papal Knighthood.

Mr MacClaren, who is a board member of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), was presented with the Knighthood this week by president of SCIAF Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell at the charity’s offices in Glasgow during their Christmas Mass (right).

Mr MacClaren elected to have the Knighthood presented at the SCIAF offices since it was ‘because of the work with SCIAF and Caritas Internationalis’ which led him to be awarded the honour. His charitable and humanitarian work began during his time at SCIAF, where he was the first full-time member of staff for the charity in 1983, being appointed as its first director within a year.

During his time as director of the charity, SCIAF built up a team of staff, international programmes, financial accountability, advocacy work with governments and the UN, and development education to inform pupils in Catholic schools of the truth behind international development and global poverty. Mr MacClaren said it was this educational outreach in schools that caused SCIAF to have, in the eyes of many, ‘changed a whole generation of the minds of people towards these kind of issues.’

After leaving SCIAF in 1995, Mr MacClaren became the head of international relations for Caritas Internationalis in Rome where he lived for 12 years, working in the Vatican itself and managing the strategic planning, working with the confederation of 165 Catholic humanitarian development social service agencies, and working closely with the UN and the Vatican on issues of diplomacy.

At the Caritas Internationalis General Assembly in 1999, which takes place every four years, he was elected as general secretary, which amounted to CEO of the network, during which time he travelled to almost half of the 165 countries in which Caritas was based dealing with issues such as peace building, reconciliation, emergencies and interreligious dialogue.

After the 2007 general assembly he decided it was time to hand on the responsibility to someone else. He took a visiting professorship at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, where he remained for six years and taught on International Development, and also co-ordinated a programme which offered university level education to Burmese refugees in camps on the Thai side of the border with Burma.

In 2013 he returned to Scotland, where he is currently studying for a PhD in theology at the University of Glasgow.

Mr MacClaren, an active lay Dominican and parishioner at St Columba’s Church, Maryhill, where the Dominicans were previously based, spoke of his ‘great honour’ at receiving the award.

“It’s a great honour absolutely, and especially from Pope Francis who had put [the kind of] work SCIAF does at the heart of his Pontificate—that is, to get rid of global poverty,” he said. “But it’s also an honour for SCIAF and the work of SCIAF. I am very proud of what SCIAF has become. SCIAF doesn’t just help poor people become slightly less poor, it transforms their lives.”

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