A row has broken out after the most senior Catholic clergyman in Scotland was left out of an official delegation to the Vatican this week.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien was left out of the group, despite his counterpart in England and Wales being included, and despite the fact that he is the more senior cleric.
Six government ministers took a British delegation to the Vatican, to mark the 30th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between the UK and the Holy See, they were accompanied by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, who is head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
But now Scottish Catholics are complaining that their well loved and widely respected leader, Cardinal O’Brien, should have been included in the group.
And it is unclear whether the Church or politicians are responsible for the blunder, with both sides claiming it was the other that made the decision about who was to be invited.
The government have also said that the party was a ministerial one, and Archbishop Nichols was only there to accompany the politicians.
Cardinal O’Brien who is currently in Rome for a symposium of African and European bishops, is the only British Catholic to be part of the College of Cardinals which elects popes, and as such is the most senior Catholic clergyman in the UK.
He is reported to be angered by the decision to exclude him from the diplomatic party, which included the Secretary of State for Scotland, one of his parishioners.
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.
“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.”
A Scotland Office spokesman said: “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 over the past two days, dealing with important issues such as international aid, human rights, poverty and climate change. The party was made up of ministers.”
February 16th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross