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Scottish church owns up to anti-Catholic legacy

For the first time in its history, the Church of Scotland admitted this week that it has been guilty of religious bigotry, particularly against Irish Catholics.

Delegates at the church's annual general assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion stating that the church "regrets any part played in sectarianism by our church in the past and affirm our support for future moves toward a more tolerant society."

The motion acknowledged that it was time to "consign bigotry to the history books, where it belongs," said the Rev. Alan McDonald, convener of a church committee that assesses church-state relations.

"We have to face up to the ugly side of Scotland today. The hard end of sectarianism is that people can die on our streets as a result," he told 800 general assembly delegates at the Mound in Edinburgh.

Scottish religious reformers, led by the Calvinist John Knox, broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1560, abolished the authority of the pope and forbade the celebration of Mass. Even in 1999, an opinion poll reported in The Guardian newspaper said 34% of respondents felt there was a deep-rooted anti-Catholic attitude throughout Scottish society.

Scottish Catholic Archbishop Keith O'Brien, said it is vital to "erase every trace of sectarianism from Scotland. It is the scourge which blights the horizon of our young people."


31 May 2002