Church of Scotland General Assembly 2022: Friendship declaration with Catholics approved

A historic declaration of friendship between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland has been approved by the Kirk’s General Assembly.

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In the declaration – already endorsed by the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in Scotland – the two churches repent for the “hurt and the harm that our forebears did to each other in times past” and ask forgiveness of one other.

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And they say: “We reaffirm that what we hold in common is often greater than what divides us. While recognising that unity does not mean uniformity, we commit ourselves to continuing our pilgrimage towards greater unity.”

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Rev Sandy Horsburgh, convener of the Kirk’s ecumenical relations committee, told the Assembly: "Friendship is a very deep relationship, a relationship of conscious and deliberate choice, in which individuality is respected and there is room for disagreement, but a relationship in which we stand alongside one another.

"We regret that our two churches have not always been friends, we recognise our need for repentance and forgiveness for the hurts and harms we have caused one another. In making the declaration of friendship we are decisively and deliberately putting these things behind us. We are declaring the truth that we share in the one faith.

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"By saying out loud that the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland are friends, we contribute to changing not only the narrative of our churches but the narrative of our country too. There is no going back.”

And attending the Assembly to represent the Catholic Church in Scotland, Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said: “We all know the history that we share. It contains some dark pages and much for us to regret. It would also be naive simply to wish it all away, but I believe that’s all the more reason for us to do something about it.

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Catholic Archbishop Leo Cushley addresses the General Assembly. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

"The declaration is also a consciously new approach to ecumenism, an attempt to re-imagine the path of Christian unity. Instead of listing our problems and points of friction or grievance, old or new, the declaration chooses to focus on what we have in common, and to underline that we treasure and hold, together, so much that is inspiring, ancient and profound.”

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