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Transition period comes at a challenging time

— This week’s SCO editorial

Bringing Scottish Catholics good news this week made a very pleasant change. The announcement that the Vatican not only recognised the need for someone to share the load of Scotland’s cardinal in St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese but had found, in Mgr Stephen Robson, the candidate to do so, was good news indeed.

The installation of Mgr Stephen Robson as auxiliary bishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh on June 9 at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh will be cause for celebration for Catholics in the archdiocese and throughout the country.

While celebrating and enjoying that moment for the parish priest of Our Lady Star of the Sea, North Berwick, and Our Lady of the Waves, Dunbar, confirmation that this Papal appointment is the first of several to come in Scotland cannot be overlooked.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, this week gave the strongest indication so far that major changes for the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland were on the near not the far horizon by suggesting that Tuesday’s announcement marked the beginning of a transition period.

The cardinal acknowledges that the Scottish Church is waiting for new Episcopal appointments in Glasgow Archdiocese and Dunkeld Diocese, that he himself is nearing retirement age and that ‘Bishop Devine and Bishop Cunningham are both older than me.’

“It is a time of transition but I think it will be stimulating for the country,” the cardinal said. “I think it is very wonderful that we will have a new group of younger bishops now to take on some of the challenges we haven’t been able to.”

And while members, particularly senior members, of the current Bishops’ Conference of Scotland remain active and vocal—in Church business and in the public square—they face naysayers as well as supporters. If this is a period of passing the torch we can only hope and pray that youthful ideas and vigour to come remain tempered by experience in our leadership because new appointments will come at a time when Catholic teaching and values are threatened not only by an increasingly secular society but also by elected officials and sitting governments in the form of legal changes.

But for now the last word belongs to the new auxiliary bishop-elect.

“Leadership in the Church is a difficult vocation but one which has to be done,” Mgr Robson said.

Pic: Paul McSherry

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