Cardinal in row over 're-Christianising' Scotland

By staff writers
12 Jan 2006

Cardinal in row over 're-Christianising' Scotland

-12/01/06

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has caused controversy among non-Christian faiths by telling them that they needed to realise they live in a Christian country.

In comments described as "obnoxious", Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he "tolerated" people who lived differently, but added that he must "take a stand when Christianity itself is questioned in this country" reports The Scotsman newspaper.

The Church said the cardinal was not meaning to diminish the stature of other faiths as he set forward his mission to "re-Christianise" Scotland.

However, a spokesman for the Hindu Temple in Glasgow condemned the remarks that people of other faiths should realise they live in a Christian country. "I think they are obnoxious. If you go to India there are more Christians there than there are in Britain. They have total autonomy and total freedom to worship and do anything they want, even welcome people into their faith. There is no grudge against that."

He called the suggestion that Scotland should be re-Christianised as "quite offensive".

Political lobbyists such as the Evangelical Alliance, which claim to represent the majority of Evangelicals in the UK, often point out that over 80% of the UK population describe themselves as "Christian". Religious commentators however highlight that church attendence figures are far lower with less than one in ten of the population attending a church every week. They also point out that identifying with Christianity culturally is very different from religious belief and practice.

Inyat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "Mr O'Brien should be addressing his comments to Christians. I think Muslims are surprised that many Christians don't take their faith so seriously.

"Mr O'Brien perhaps needs to look at his own flock and question why people are not following Christianity as he would like to, rather than showing impatience with other faiths."

Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar said those of other faiths accepted Scotland had a massive Christian majority.

But he added: "I have one reservation - when he says that people should learn to live in a Christian way. I don't know what that means. It's very ambiguous. I'm a very tolerant person and we live in a democracy. People should be allowed to practise religion the way they want to."

Cardinal O'Brien chose a forthcoming BBC radio interview to repeat his call for Scotland to be "re-Christianised".

He said Christianity had been present in Scotland since St Ninian landed at Whithorn in AD397, but that the country no longer lived up to Christian standards: "I feel I must take a stand when Christianity itself is questioned in this country.

"In a re-Christianised Scotland I would certainly respect the beliefs of people of other faiths, the great world faiths, and acknowledge when they are celebrating their feasts, just as they acknowledge when we celebrate the feast of Christmas and these sort of things. But I would also like them to realise that they are living in Scotland as a Christian country."

While the cardinal says Scotland is a "multi-cultural country", he adds: "The basic core faith in Scotland I would maintain is Christianity. And I would like to think that in other countries, where other faiths are in the majority, the Christian faith would be given the same recognition as other faiths are given here."

Cardinal O'Brien is a member of the inter-faith council, which meets once every year.

In the interview, to be broadcast on Sunday, he says: "I am all for that - working together ever more effectively. But we cannot detract from the fact that Scotland is a Christian country."

Aides to the cardinal last night insisted he had made similar remarks dating back to his appointment in 2003.

A spokesman for the Catholic Media Office in Glasgow said: "The context in which he talks about re-Christianising is to try and reintroduce faith-based values in society - it is in no sense a diminution of the value of other faiths."

The interview by Sally Magnusson is on What I Believe, to be broadcast by Radio Scotland on Sunday, 15 January at 8am.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has caused controversy among non-Christian faiths by telling them that they needed to realise they live in a Christian country.

In comments described as "obnoxious", Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he "tolerated" people who lived differently, but added that he must "take a stand when Christianity itself is questioned in this country" reports The Scotsman newspaper.

The Church said the cardinal was not meaning to diminish the stature of other faiths as he set forward his mission to "re-Christianise" Scotland.

However, a spokesman for the Hindu Temple in Glasgow condemned the remarks that people of other faiths should realise they live in a Christian country. "I think they are obnoxious. If you go to India there are more Christians there than there are in Britain. They have total autonomy and total freedom to worship and do anything they want, even welcome people into their faith. There is no grudge against that."

He called the suggestion that Scotland should be re-Christianised as "quite offensive".

Political lobbyists such as the Evangelical Alliance, which claim to represent the majority of Evangelicals in the UK, often point out that over 80% of the UK population describe themselves as "Christian". Religious commentators however highlight that church attendence figures are far lower with less than one in ten of the population attending a church every week. They also point out that identifying with Christianity culturally is very different from religious belief and practice.

Inyat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "Mr O'Brien should be addressing his comments to Christians. I think Muslims are surprised that many Christians don't take their faith so seriously.

"Mr O'Brien perhaps needs to look at his own flock and question why people are not following Christianity as he would like to, rather than showing impatience with other faiths."

Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar said those of other faiths accepted Scotland had a massive Christian majority.

But he added: "I have one reservation - when he says that people should learn to live in a Christian way. I don't know what that means. It's very ambiguous. I'm a very tolerant person and we live in a democracy. People should be allowed to practise religion the way they want to."

Cardinal O'Brien chose a forthcoming BBC radio interview to repeat his call for Scotland to be "re-Christianised".

He said Christianity had been present in Scotland since St Ninian landed at Whithorn in AD397, but that the country no longer lived up to Christian standards: "I feel I must take a stand when Christianity itself is questioned in this country.

"In a re-Christianised Scotland I would certainly respect the beliefs of people of other faiths, the great world faiths, and acknowledge when they are celebrating their feasts, just as they acknowledge when we celebrate the feast of Christmas and these sort of things. But I would also like them to realise that they are living in Scotland as a Christian country."

While the cardinal says Scotland is a "multi-cultural country", he adds: "The basic core faith in Scotland I would maintain is Christianity. And I would like to think that in other countries, where other faiths are in the majority, the Christian faith would be given the same recognition as other faiths are given here."

Cardinal O'Brien is a member of the inter-faith council, which meets once every year.

In the interview, to be broadcast on Sunday, he says: "I am all for that - working together ever more effectively. But we cannot detract from the fact that Scotland is a Christian country."

Aides to the cardinal last night insisted he had made similar remarks dating back to his appointment in 2003.

A spokesman for the Catholic Media Office in Glasgow said: "The context in which he talks about re-Christianising is to try and reintroduce faith-based values in society - it is in no sense a diminution of the value of other faiths."

The interview by Sally Magnusson is on What I Believe, to be broadcast by Radio Scotland on Sunday, 15 January at 8am.

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