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Will the peacemaking Pope visit an evolving Scotland?

We would be blessed indeed to be visited here in Scotland by three consecutive Popes. That is the hope though, after Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow invited Pope Francis to come to the city next year to mark the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Jesuit St John Ogilvie, who was executed at Glasgow Cross on March 10 1615.

Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit to Scotland in 1982, Pope Benedict XVI made the first state Papal visit in modern times to our shores in 2010. A visit by Pope Francis here within six months of the vote on Scottish independence seems almost too much to hope for, but it would be a welcome shot in the arm for the Faith in Scotland, no matter the outcome of the constitutional ballot.

A 2015 Papal visit would also act as a timely reminder to those deciding Scotland’s future, as part of the UK or going it alone, of our struggle with religious freedom in the past—religious persecution, after all, martyred John Ogilvie—and, in spite of that, of our enduring Christian values. The Holy Father will undoubtedly decide on the invitation in his own time. We can but hope and pray that Pope Francis also sees Scotland as the ‘special daughter of the see of Rome’ (circa 1189), a flock and a Church in great need of his guidance.

Talk of the need for peaceful reconciliation in Scotland after the independence referendum pales in comparison, however, to world events last week. From the respectful D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations on June 6 to the Vatican peace invocation for the Holy Land last weekend, we are reminded by Pope Francis of the ‘heavy sacrifice’ of soldiers and of the fact that ‘God must now act where humans have failed to end the violence’ in the Holy Land, and indeed beyond.

War is the scourge of, and some even might say, the scourge by humanity. It is a cross our world shoulders along with hunger, disease and poverty. The Holy Father’s new prayers for peace must go beyond the ears of Israeli President Shimon Peres and Holy Land President Mahmoud Abbas and their people in the Holy Land into all our hearts and prayers.

Those who fought and sacrificed in the Second World War are a dying generation but, thanks to them, we live on committed to their hard-won peace. For those who continue to endure violence and conflict today, the thought of the peace that must, God-willing, come gives their hearts hope. Peace be with you.

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