Kirk disputes Pope's view of the past
THE first signs of a Church of Scotland backlash over the Pope's views on the Reformation and Scottish sectarianism emerged yesterday when his remarks were described as "unhelpful" by leading figures in the Kirk.
In a statement issued last week by The Vatican, Pope Benedict, who will visit Scotland in September, described the 16th-century Reformation, which split the two faiths, as a "great rupture" that had led to religious intolerance.
But Kirk ministers yesterday disputed the Pontiff's description and expressed concern that he had chosen to draw attention to sectarianism in Scotland.
Those in the Church of Scotland who want to see a formal celebration of the 450th anniversary of Scotland's break with the Vatican later this year, claimed the Pope's remarks would promote the idea that marking the Reformation would be seen as anti-Catholic.
Donald Gorrie, the former Liberal MSP and a Kirk elder for 40 years, said: "I think this (the Pope's remarks] contributes to the difficulties. One of the difficulties in persuading either the Church of Scotland or the government to celebrate the Reformation as it deserves is that it will be seen as being sectarian and triumphalist and anti-Catholic. In fact, it is a good opportunity to celebrate the Reformation by ecumenical type services to show how far we've come."
Gorrie, who campaigned for anti-sectarian legislation in the Scottish Parliament, added: "I think these remarks are unhelpful although I'm sure they are well meant."
Observers believe the tone of the Pope's state visit later this year is becoming very different to the more celebratory papal trip undertaken by his predecessor, John Paul, in 1982. Pope Benedict XVI suggested Scotland was a country grappling with sectarianism and struggling against a rising tide of secularism when formally announcing his trip to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Rev David Court, the minister at New Restalrig Church, Edinburgh, said: "I disagree with him on the Reformation, but we should be focusing on the theological issues rather than sectarianism."
Andrew MacLellan, a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, welcomed the Pope's visit, but not his description of the Reformation as a "great rupture". "I welcome the Pope recognising this important anniversary. It is 450 years since the great renewal of Scotland's Christian past, which was the Reformation."
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