Cardinal Keith O’Brien ‘snubbed’ by UK government’s Vatican delegation
THE Catholic Church in Scotland has issued a stinging rebuke to the UK government after Cardinal Keith O’Brien was left out of an official delegation to the Vatican this week, despite the the head of the church in England and Wales being invited.
Vatican this week, despite the the head of the church in England and Wales being invited.
The visit, marking the 30th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between the UK and the Holy See, saw six ministers including Scottish Secretary Michael Moore lead a UK delegation, accompanied by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols.
Archbishop Nichols is head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the head of its Bishops’ Conference.
But he has no locus for other parts of the UK, including Scotland, where a separate Bishops’ Conference is led by Cardinal O’Brien.
However, Cardinal O’Brien was not asked to accompany the delegation. UK officials insisted it was the Church’s decision, but this was disputed by church officials, who said ministers should have known that Cardinal O’Brien needed to be invited.
The decision has particularly irritated the Scottish Church because Cardinal O’Brien is a more senior figure than Archbishop Nichols. He is the only British Catholic to be part of the College of Cardinals which elects popes.
UK officials insisted last night that the trip was a purely ministerial one and that Archbishop Nichols was there simply to accompany them on government business.
But Cardinal O’Brien, who is in Rome on other business, is understood to be “angered” by the omission. Last night, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “The fact that Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Britain’s senior Catholic, was not included in the UK government delegation which visited the Holy See is a most unfortunate oversight.”
He added: “The Foreign Office have obviously been involved in planning this visit for several months and should have been aware the Catholic Church is organised into three distinct Bishops’ Conferences; the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, England & Wales and Ireland.
“All three should have been represented.”
He also singled out Mr Moore for criticism.
“This situation is especially regrettable since one of the members of the ministerial delegation is the Secretary of State for Scotland, whose constituency is in Cardinal O’Brien’s Archdiocese. It was to be hoped that as a result of this, Scotland’s interests would have been fully represented. This, however, has not proved to be the case.”
A Scotland Office spokesman said last night: “The UK government delegation to the Vatican was a ministerial one. It has had a successful and constructive series of meetings with Holy See officials. The party was made up of ministers.”
Liz Leydon, editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer, said: “While I am sure His Eminence will be magnanimous about the oversight, it is both disappointing and alarming. For Cardinal O’Brien, and Scotland, to be overlooked in this way sends the wrong message from a London-based government, especially so soon after the successful co-operation between Church and state on the Papal visit.”
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added: “What it shows is that Westminster is not thinking about Scotland when they are making these decisions.”
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