Homily of the holy father

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! "The kingdom of God is near to you!" (Lk 10:9). With these words from the Gospel we have just heard, I greet you all warmly in the Lord. Truly the kingdom of the Lord is already in our midst! In this Eucharistic celebration, in which the Church in Scotland gathers around the altar united to the Successor of Peter, let us reaffirm our faith in Christ's word and our hope in his promises – a hope that never disappoints. I warmly greet Cardinal O'Brien and the Scottish bishops; I especially thank Archbishop Conti for his kind words of welcome on your behalf; and I would like to express my deep gratitude for the work done by the British and Scottish governments and the Glasgow city fathers to make this event possible.

Today's Gospel reminds us that Christ continues to send his disciples into the world to proclaim the coming of his kingdom and to bring his peace to the world, beginning house by house, family by family, city by city. I have come to you, the spiritual children of St. Andrew, as a messenger of that peace, and I wish to strengthen you in the faith of Peter (cf. Lk 22:32). It is with a certain inner emotion that I greet you not far from the place where my dear predecessor Pope John Paul II. celebrated Mass with you almost thirty years ago and was welcomed by the largest crowd ever gathered in Scottish history.

Much has happened since that historic visit to Scotland and in the Church in that country. It is with great satisfaction that I note that the call of Pope John Paul II. to you to go forward hand in hand with your fellow Christians, has led to greater trust and friendship with members of the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and others. I would encourage you to continue to pray and work with them for the building of a brighter future for Scotland based on our common Christian heritage. In today's first reading we heard St. Paul exhorting the Romans to recognize that as members of Christ we belong to one another (cf. Rom 12:5), and to live in mutual respect and love. In this spirit, I welcome the ecumenical representatives who honor us with their presence. This year marks the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Reformation Parliament, but also the one hundredth anniversary of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, widely regarded as the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. Let us give thanks to God for the promising hope of united witness to God's saving truth in today's fast-moving society through ecumenical understanding and cooperation.

Among the various gifts that St. Paul lists for the building up of the Church is that of teaching (cf. Rom 12:7). The proclamation of the Gospel has always been accompanied by respect for the Word: the inspired Word of God and the culture in which that Word takes root and flourishes. Here in Scotland, I think of the three medieval universities founded in this country by the popes, including Saint Andrews University, which is approaching the six hundredth anniversary of its founding. In the last thirty years, Catholic schools, supported by civil authorities, have risen to the challenge of providing a comprehensive education to a greater number of students, and this has not only helped young people on the path of spiritual and human growth, but has also given them access to professional and public life. This is a sign of great hope for the Church, and I encourage Scotland's Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers never to lose sight of their vocation, to put their talents and experience at the service of the faith, embracing modern Scottish culture at all levels.

The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our time, when a "dictatorship of relativism" threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about the nature of man, his destiny and his highest good. There are now moves to exclude religious faith from public discourse, to privatize it, or even to portray it as a threat to equality and freedom. In fact, religion is a guarantee of true freedom and respect, since it leads us to consider every human being as a brother or sister. For this reason, I appeal especially to you lay believers, in accordance with your baptismal vocation and mission, not only to be public models of faith, but also to work to promote the wisdom and outlook of the faith in the public sphere. Society today needs clear voices that emphasize our right not to live in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society that cares for the true well-being of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and insecurity. Do not be afraid to take upon yourselves this service to your brothers and sisters as well as to the future of your beloved nation.

St. Ninian, whose feast we celebrate today, was not afraid to be a lone voice. Following in the footsteps of the disciples our Lord sent before him, Ninian was one of the very first Catholic missionaries to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to their British contemporaries. His mission church in Galloway became a center for the first evangelization of this land. This work was later carried on by St. Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, and by other saints, among whose greatest are probably St. Columban and St. Margaret. Inspired by them, many men and women over many centuries have worked to bring the faith to you. Strive to be worthy of this great tradition! Be continually spurred on by St. Paul's call in the first reading, "Do not slacken your zeal, be inflamed by the Spirit, and serve the Lord! Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persevering in prayer!"(Rom 12:11-12).

Now I would like to address a special word to the bishops of Scotland. Dear Brothers, I would like to encourage you in your pastoral care for the Catholics of Scotland. As you know, one of your first pastoral duties is to your priests (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7) and their sanctification. As they are an old Christ for the Catholic community, so are you for them. In your fraternal service to your priests, live to the full the love that proceeds from Christ, working with them all, especially those who have little contact with their confreres. Pray with them for vocations, that the Lord of the harvest may send laborers into his harvest (cf. Lk 10:2). Just as the Eucharist constitutes the Church, the priesthood is central to the life of the Church. Make a personal commitment to form your priests into a group of men who will inspire others to dedicate themselves wholly to the service of Almighty God. Take care also of your deacons, whose ministry is especially related to that of the bishops. Be to them a father and a counselor in holiness, and encourage them to increase in knowledge and wisdom in the exercise of their mission as heralds to which they have been called.

Dear priests of Scotland, you are called to holiness and to serve the people of God by living your lives in harmony with the mystery of the Lord's Cross. Proclaim the Gospel with a pure heart and a clear conscience. Give yourselves to God alone, and you will become for young men a shining example of a holy, simple, and joyful life: Surely they in turn will desire to join you in your single-minded service to the people of God. May the example of St. John Ogilvie in his devotion, selflessness and bravery inspire you all. Similarly, I want to encourage you, the monks, the nuns and all the religious of Scotland, to be a light on a mountaintop through an authentic Christian life of prayer and action that witnesses in a luminous way to the power of the Gospel.

Finally, I would like to say a word to you, dear young Catholics of Scotland. I urge you to live a life worthy of the Lord (cf. Eph 4:1) and worthy of yourselves. Many temptations are in front of you every day – drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol – that the world makes you believe will bring you happiness, but these things are destructive and ambiguous. Only one thing is permanent: the love that Jesus Christ has personally for each one of you. Seek him, know him, and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the tempting but superficial existence that contemporary society so often advertises. Put away what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God. In today's Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you may come to know and love Jesus and through this encounter come to give yourselves totally to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the call God is making to you now: The Church today is yours!

Dear friends, once again I express my joy at celebrating this Mass with you. Gladly I are you of my prayer in the ancient language of your country: Sìth agus beannachd Dhe dhuibh uile; Dia bhi timcheall oirbh; agus gum beannaicheadh Dia Alba. God's peace and blessing be with you all; God surround you; and God bless the Scottish people!

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