Pope’s Glasgow plea for planet


The countdown is on for Pope Francis’s visit to Glasgow to attend the meeting of world leaders attending the COP26 event in Glasgow in November.

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SCIAF appeal

Wee boxes, big hearts

Not even a global pandemic can stop the much-loved Wee Box appeal which SCIAF runs every Lent. That’s the message this month as it emerges that this year’s appeal raised almost £3m.
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Why St Mungo’s Museum must be saved

The St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art was opened in 1993 and is situated in the historic and medieval centre of Glasgow.
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World Day of Migrants and Refugees

I was a stranger and you made me welcome

Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation. God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’, but only ‘us’ …
Read more…

September issue

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Pope’s Glasgow plea for planet


The countdown is on for Pope Francis’s visit to Glasgow to attend the meeting of world leaders attending the COP26 event in Glasgow in November.

The Holy Father is likely to spend just four hours in the Dear Green Place to plead with heads of state and international delegations to act swiftly to prevent disastrous changes to the climate which could lead to death and destruction in large swathes of the earth and irreparable damage to the earth.

The city will see President Biden join leaders of all the great nations at the SEC in a bid to thrash out an agreement to slow global warming and change lifestyles. Clyde Street will be transformed into a special avenue of ecology with new garden areas planted close to the COP meeting area and St Andrew’s Cathedral will be illuminated with stories of “Change Makers” – people who have made a difference to the climate emergency, following a similar illumination project in Milan.

A Mass for delegates will be held at St Aloysius halfway through the conference and the expectation is that it will be concelebrated by Scottish bishops and the cardinals and archbishops who will lead the Vatican delegation.

In schools across the Archdiocese and beyond, young people are studying the Holy Father’s document and special activities are planned in the coming term to prepare for COP.

Bishop Nolan of Galloway has chaired a special Bishops’ Conference working group preparing for the event and has spoken out often about the need for all of us to protect our common home.


He said: “As a global Church we witness the voices from our partner dioceses and parishes in other parts of the world – in Brazil, Bangladesh, Fiji, and South Sudan to name a few – their stories of drought and hunger, extreme flooding, rising sea levels polluting ground water wells and more frequent cyclones and hurricanes washing away lives, homes and livelihoods – alerting us to how fragile life and survival can be from one moment to the next, for some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.”  

SCIAF has a range of material now available too, to help parishioners prepare. Chief Executive Alistair Dutton told Flourish: “The world’s poorest are already suffering most because of the changing climate. As the first of the industrialised nations to begin burning fossil fuels, Scotland has a particularly strong responsibility to help tackle the climate emergency.”


Wee boxes, big hearts

Not even a global pandemic can stop the much-loved Wee Box appeal which SCIAF runs every Lent. That’s the message this month as it emerges that this year’s appeal raised almost £3m.

Pupils of St Andrew’s & St Bride’s High School, East Kilbride celebrate the appeal success. Picture: Paul McSherry

When the donations were added up, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund appeal for 2021 brought in over £2.8m to help people in some of the poorest countries in the world. This includes £1.3m of match funding from the UK government.

The annual appeal raises vital funds for the charity’s life-changing work helping people in some of the poorest countries in the world who struggle to survive due to hunger, poverty, conflict and natural disasters.

Each year, Scots up and down the country give up a favourite treat for Lent, such as coffee, chocolate, wine or crisps and put the money they save into a SCIAF WEE BOX. Many people, including in schools and parishes, also hold their own fundraising events.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place during Lent 2021, many collection events were unable to go ahead. SCIAF recognises the extraordinary generosity of individuals this year who went above and beyond to donate.

As part of UK Aid Match, this year’s appeal benefited from match funding which means all donations given to SCIAF’s WEE BOX, BIG CHANGE appeal were doubled by the UK government.

The charity has sent a message of thanks to all schools and parishes involved for their fantastic fundraising efforts. This includes St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School in East Kilbride where pupils raised over £11,600.

This year’s campaign focused on helping children with disabilities in South Sudan access education and life-changing support. SCIAF and its local partner works to tackle discriminatory attitudes towards children living with disabilities and break down the barriers that prevent them from accessing the support and opportunities they need to thrive.

Alistair Dutton, SCIAF Director, commented: “Thank you to everyone who gave so generously to our WEE BOX, BIG CHANGE appeal. We couldn’t have reached this total without the fantastic fundraising efforts from people across Scotland, especially those in parishes and schools.

“This is the second WEE BOX appeal we have run during the pandemic and we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who have found it in their hearts to donate during this difficult time. We are incredibly grateful.”

Fiona Mullen, Head Teacher, St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School, said: “Despite the challenges that the pandemic has given us, St Andrew’s and St Bride’s has continued to support those in need of our help through our ongoing charity work; charity that I believe isn’t simply the benevolent acts of giving but rooted in compassion and love…

“With the help and guidance of staff, their ‘Stride to South Sudan’ initiative quickly picked up momentum. Staff, pupils, parents and friends of the school got involved. I feel very proud and humbled by their empathy and responsiveness.”

Caritas student Hannah Dalziell of St Andrew’s and St Bride’s, commented: “Being involved in the school’s Stride to Sudan for SCIAF really opened my eyes to the issues facing people in some of the world’s most deprived countries and I was so grateful to be able to take part and help raise much needed funds. I am beyond thankful to have been a part of SCIAF’s campaign as it really showed how we can help other people and the happiness that comes from thinking about other people. The amount of staff, students and families who came together certainly highlighted how God’s love grows in all of us.”


Why St Mungo’s Museum must be saved


The St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art was opened in 1993 and is situated in the historic and medieval centre of Glasgow.

St Mungo’s opened in 1993

It stands beside Glasgow Cathedral, the burial site of St Mungo, the founder and patron saint of Glasgow whose tomb is in the lower crypt and opposite Provands Lordship, the oldest house in the city, built in 1471 by Bishop Andrew Muirhead as part of St Nicholas’ Hospital.

The Cathedral is the oldest building in Glasgow, the oldest Cathedral in mainland Scotland and one of only two that survived the Reformation with its roof intact.

The Museum building fits in well within this precinct, designed as it is, in the style of the medieval Bishops’ Castle on which site it is built.

Originally it was created to be a visitor centre for the cathedral but the Friends of Glasgow Cathedral, who were responsible for the project, were unable to finance the completion of it and it was handed over to Glasgow City Council half finished.

The task of setting up the museum was entrusted to Mark O’Neill, at that time Senior Curator of History, to develop it as a Museum of Religion with a socially driven purpose, expressed in the mission statement: “to explore the importance of religion in people’s everyday lives across the world and across time, aiming to promote mutual understanding and respect between people of different faiths and none”.

Mark and his team were convinced that if the museum was to live up to this vision stakeholders would have to be consulted and included in the museum’s development – even in the decision to call it The St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.

The stakeholders were the various faith communities in Glasgow as well as the Glasgow Sharing of Faiths, the first and, at that time, only interfaith group in Scotland.

The Museum opened on 4 April 1993, one of only two Museums of Religion in Europe.

For the faith communities there was a sense of feeling at home since many of us knew the people in the introductory video and the people whose oral testimonies were part of the displays to show the living nature of religion and belief.


The Museum was praised for its significant artefacts – for a period Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross, of which Glasgow is immensely proud was displayed there; a 19th century bronze statue of a Hindu Deity, Siva Nataraja, from India: a Zen Garden created by a leading gardener from Kyoto which I suspect was the only one of its kind in Britain if not in Europe.

But above all it was hailed as ground-breaking and innovative, receiving three awards in its first three months.

Within Glasgow there were a variety of opinions about the Museum. Many praised it, recognising it as a significant development that could contribute to the well-being of the social fabric of Glasgow. Some found it challenging, especially in the Gallery of Religious Life which showed that all faiths celebrated, ritualised, and customised significant moments in life – birth, initiation, commitment, marriage, death.

It was disconcerting for some and refreshing for others to see statues of the Virgin Mary with her son Jesus next to the Goddess Isis with her son Horus in the same pose, or the infant Jesus next to the infant Krishna. And there was criticism, especially from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland who felt the role of the Church in the nation was not sufficiently recognised.

One visitor felt so strongly that he overturned the statue of Siva and broke its arm. When asked why he had done so he replied he had done it for Christ!


From the moment of its opening St Mungo’s became a place for interfaith engagement and dialogue. It fulfilled its mission admirably, working with faith communities and to overcome prejudice, misunderstanding and promote respect and friendship in a city that was known for its sectarianism by putting on interfaith activities and dialogues.

Harry Dunlop, the curator, working with a trained staff, developed programmes for Holocaust Memorial Day and Interfaith Week, working mainly with pupils to train them to organise events in their own schools.

The Museum offered a safe space to faith communities, and it was there that discussions about the place of faith in a devolved Scotland took place. These conversations led to the setting up of the Scottish Interfaith Council (now Interfaith Scotland) which was launched at the Museum in October 1999 by Patricia Ferguson MSP, Presiding Officer of the new Parliament.

Now St Mungo’s as a Museum of Religious Life and Art is in danger.

Glasgow Life, the body that runs museums, libraries and sports centres has indicated that it is looking for a third party to finance and run this museum.

Conversations are taking place about revitalising the Cathedral Precinct and how St Mungo’s Museum can contribute to that. As far as I know Historic Environmental Scotland is involved.

No doubt the emphasis is on the historic nature of the area and the fact that religious artefacts could well be placed in a museum elsewhere in the city. My concern is that such a move will lead to the demise of the good work and significant contribution that the Museum has made to overcoming racism, sectarianism, and religious prejudice.

The staff have worked with faith communities, schools, and others to promote mutual understanding and respect.

It has involved stakeholders in a way no other museum has; it has attracted international attention and been used as a model for museums in Germany, Taiwan and elsewhere.

Glasgow City Council claims that it wants to overcome the prejudices that are still present in the city.

Sectarianism is still there in different forms; antisemitism is in the ascendancy as is Islamophobia as a recent report showed. So why change the mission and nature of St Mungo’s? Does Glasgow not need this commitment more than ever?

I suspect the present conversations are taking place with no knowledge or thought being given to the history of this precious Museum of Religious Life and Art, with no inclusion of the stakeholders, who have been so much part of its work, in considerations of its future and no thought to the mission statement of the Museum or the Declaration of the Forum of Faiths which are in danger of becoming empty and hollow words.

Many among the faith communities and the interfaith movement are distressed at the thought of what might happen to the Museum.


Interfaith Glasgow has launched a petition to ask Glasgow Life for assurances that:

1) St Mungo’s will continue its valuable work representing diverse faith traditions and promoting good relations between communities

(2) Stakeholders from Glasgow’s diverse religious communities, interfaith organisations, and anti-sectarian organisations will be consulted in continuing discussions regarding future developments.

The petition can be signed at www.interfaithglasgow.org

Glasgow City Council was approached by Flourish to respond to the issues raised and offered the following statement:

“We recognise the very significant role St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art has played in the religious life of the city and the continued importance of the role Glasgow Museums can play, alongside partner organisations. We also recognise the importance of interfaith dialogue and are committed to continuing to support this.

“For some time now, indeed significantly prior to the pandemic, Glasgow Life has been talking to Glasgow City Council and partners on the Cathedral Precinct, about how to work better together to improve the visitor experience to the medieval heart of the city and the Cathedral Precinct. The purpose of the conversation has been to think about how to work together to make best use of the buildings and outside spaces.

“These conversations have been useful but are inevitably taking time to find the best way to work together on an ongoing basis. While no concrete proposals have been presented for consideration or approval, discussions to date have focused on the need to tell the story of the area and faiths in Scotland, and to promote interfaith and cultural dialogue.

“As a result of the impact of coronavirus, St Mungo Museum has been closed for the past 18 months and the ongoing impact of the pandemic means that this will continue to be the case. We continue to recognise the strength of feeling there is about venues without reopening dates, but in the current climate it is unrealistic to expect that we can raise significant additional funding this year that will support the reopening of venues beyond those we have already announced. We are using this time to progress the discussions outlined above with partners and will update on progress at the first opportunity.”


I was a stranger and you made me welcome


Dear brothers and sisters,

Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation. God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’, but only ‘us’ …

Pope Francis has written this letter for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees

For this reason, I wish to devote the Message for this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the theme, Towards An Ever Wider “We”, in order to indicate a clear horizon for our common journey in this world.

The history of this “we”

That horizon is already present in God’s creative plan. We read in the book of Genesis: “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’”.

God created us male and female, different yet complementary, in order to form a “we” destined to become ever more numerous in the succession of generations. God created us in his image, in the image of his own triune being, a communion in diversity.

When, in disobedience we turned away from God, he in his mercy wished to offer us a path of reconciliation, not as individuals but as a people, a “we”, meant to embrace the entire human family, without exception…

Salvation history thus has a “we” in its beginning and a “we” at its end, and at its centre the mystery of Christ, who died and rose so “that they may all be one”.

The present time, however, shows that this “we” willed by God is broken and fragmented, wounded and disfigured. This becomes even more evident in moments of great crisis, as is the case with the current pandemic. Our “we”, both in the wider world and within the Church, is crumbling and cracking due to short-sighted and aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism. And the highest price is being paid by those who most easily become viewed as others … foreigners, migrants, the marginalized, those living on the existential peripheries.

The truth however is that we are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single “we”, encompassing all of humanity.

Thus I would like to use this World Day to address a twofold appeal, first to the Catholic faithful and then all the men and women of our world, to advance together towards an ever wider “we”.

A Church that is more and more “catholic”

For the members of the Catholic Church, this appeal entails a commitment to becoming ever more faithful to our being “catholic”…

The Church’s catholicity, her universality, must be embraced and expressed in every age, according to the will and grace of the Lord who promised to be with us always, until the end of time. The Holy Spirit enables us to embrace everyone, to build communion in diversity, to unify differences without imposing a depersonalized uniformity.

In encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another. All the baptized, wherever they find themselves, are by right members of both their local ecclesial community and the one Church, dwellers in one home and part of one family.

The Catholic faithful are called to work together, each in his or her own community, to make the Church become ever more inclusive as she carries out the mission entrusted to the Apostles by Jesus Christ: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment”.

In our day, the Church is called to go out into the streets … to heal wounds and to seek out the straying, without prejudice or fear, without proselytising, but ready to widen her tent to embrace everyone. Among those dwelling in those peripheries, we find many migrants and refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking, to whom the Lord wants his love to be manifested and his salvation preached.

The encounter with migrants and refugees of other denominations and religions represents a fertile ground for the growth of open and enriching ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

I also make this appeal to journey together towards an ever wider “we” to all men and women, for the sake of renewing the human family, building together a future of justice and peace, and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Our societies will have a “colourful” future, enriched by diversity and by cultural exchanges. Consequently, we must even now learn to live together in harmony and peace. I am always touched by the scene in the Acts of the Apostles when, on the day of the Church’s “baptism” at Pentecost, immediately after the descent of the Holy Spirit, the people of Jerusalem hear the proclamation of salvation in their language.

This is the ideal of the new Jerusalem where all peoples are united in peace and harmony, celebrating the goodness of God and the wonders of creation.

To achieve this ideal, however, we must make every effort to break down the walls that separate us and, in acknowledging our profound interconnection, build bridges that foster a culture of encounter. Today’s migration movements offer an opportunity for us to overcome our fears and let ourselves be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts. Then, if we so desire, we can transform borders into privileged places of encounter, where the miracle of an ever wider “we” can come about.

I invite all men and women in our world to make good use of the gifts that the Lord has entrusted to us to preserve and make his creation even more beautiful. The Lord will also demand of us an account of our work! In order to ensure the proper care of our common home, we must become a “we” that is ever wider and more co-responsible, in the profound conviction that whatever good is done in our world is done for present and future generations.

Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer … a commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.

We are called to dream together, fearlessly, as a single human family, as companions on the same journey, as sons and daughters of the same earth that is our common home, sisters and brothers all.


Signed at Rome, Saint John Lateran, 3 May 2021

Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles