Thursday, January 26, 2017

First Minister praises Catholic schools

6-FIRST MINISTERThe SNP leader was chairing an annual meeting of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) which brings leaders from a range of denominations together, including the Glasgow archbishop, who is president of the Scottish Bishops’ Conference, and the director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office Anthony Horan.

Speaking about a new community cohesion initiative, the First Minister commended the work of Catholic schools and singled-out St Albert’s Primary in Glasgow’s Southside for praise. Acknowledging the fact that the majority of pupils at the school are Muslim children—drawing most of its pupils from areas of traditionally high immigration—Mrs Sturgeon praised headteacher, Clare Harker. “It is fantastic that a school with a Christian Catholic ethos finds a way to respect the values of the children there,” she said.

The First Minister also said churches had a key role to play in community cohesion. “The trust you have in these communities can promote understanding,” she told the faith leaders. “We are at a pivotal moment and we need to try in our small way to give international leadership to diversity as strength and not just weakness. There is scope for us to work collectively.”

Among those at the meeting with the archbishop (above) were Rev Matthew Ross (Secretary of ACTS), Rev Alexander Ritchie (United Free Church of Scotland), Major Steven Turner (Salvation Army), Norman Graham (Baptist Union of Scotland), Rt Rev Russell Barr (Moderator of the Church of Scotland), and Most Revd Bishop David Chillingworth (Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church).

Mrs Sturgeon also spoke about the challenge, for both government and wider society, of providing social care for an ageing population, particularly in relation to dementia. “We need to learn from you, to understand what the churches can bring [in relation to care for those with dementia],” she told the church leaders, adding that ‘you [the churches] are trusted, particularly regarding older people’s care.’

The SCO has been running a campaign since October to make Catholic churches ‘dementia friendly,’ with two churches signing up to the scheme in recent weeks.

At the end of the meeting, Mrs Sturgeon praised the work of volunteers and the third sector, and highlighted the value of the meetings with church leaders. “It is a good opportunity for me to hear from you and how we can work together,” she said. “I value this tradition.”

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said: “The meeting is an opportunity for leaders of a number of Christian denominations to speak with the First Minister and to give her visibility as to the work they are doing in their local communities and wider Scottish society. It was extremely pleasing to hear the First Minister commend the value of Catholic schools.”

Speaking after the meeting, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland is a place where we celebrate our differences, while recognising the many things that unite us and where people of all races, faiths and background feel safe and respected.

“It is important that everyone is open to each other’s values and it is essential that we safeguard our shared vision of a multicultural, open and tolerant Scotland. Our faith communities play a significant role here, and abroad, and we welcome their contribution and input into our nation’s civic life to enrich us all.”

No comments: