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‘When you see only one set of footprints, I carried you’

This week's editorial

The Church here in Scotland is in pain this week. There have been many secular reports of ‘crisis’ in the period since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation and his actual retirement yesterday. Before stepping down himself this week, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien from his role as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, effective immediately. And so the Catholic ‘crisis’ became a ‘scandal’ in some eyes.

While Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation, due to age and health, dates back to last year, ahead of his 75th birthday this month, and had been preliminarily accepted, only a Pope can formally accept this request from a cardinal, as Pope Benedict did this week.

Nonetheless, the timing of the resignation and the contested allegations against Cardinal O’Brien, and the allegations themselves, have wounded. The shadow they cast over the legacy of the cardinal, a forthright leader and a Faithful servant of the Church for more than 47 years, more than 27 of them as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, needs to be, and is being, investigated. The cardinal said ‘for any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended,’ but the Church must not fail him. The allegations, whether founded or unfounded, also speak of the pain among three serving and one former member of the clergy in Scotland whom we must also remember in our prayers.

And Catholics in parishes throughout the land are in pain too, as our congregations and communities struggle to reconcile their personal relationship with God with the Faith they put in the organised Church. And doubt is a difficult dilemma—even though Faith is strong, failings are human.

There has been great talk of reform, not of Church teaching but of management and organisation. As three of Scotland’s eight dioceses are now without Vatican-appointed leaders, and further retirements approach, let that reform and healing start here in Scotland. Cardinal O’Brien will not be at the conclave to elect the next Pope but let us hope this message reaches the next Pontiff.

If the Lord indeed said ‘the times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you,’ may He carry us all now.

During Lent, as we approach Christ’s Passion before Easter, it seems appropriate to refer to Isaiah 53:5: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed.”

Being a Christian is difficult. It was difficult 2000 years ago and it is difficult today. In the Gospel of John, Jesus told us to remember that the world hated Him before it hated us (John 15:18). As Christians the world can often turn against us and we have to stay on the one truth path no matter how hard it may become.


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