Archbishop Cushley - Thought for the Day

Archbishop Cushley reflects on the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which he attends in his role as in his role as Catholic Bishop President for Ecumenical Relations in Scotland.

Listen below or on YouTube.


It’s that time of the year again and I find myself attending the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The Kirk invites sister churches in Scotland to send an observer to attend, and I’ve been representing the Catholic Church there for the last eleven years.

That itself shows an openness of the Kirk in letting others see how they address issues and makes decisions.

The commissioners at the General Assembly, men and women, ministers and laity, represent the whole Church for a certain limited amount of time, and they vote on all matters relating to the life of the Church.

They’re elected to serve for a short period of time, and even the Moderator, famously, only serves for one year – and a shout out to the new Moderator, Dr Shaw Paterson for his warm welcome the other day - but although the Assembly’s membership changes regularly, there are two things that never seem to change, and I mean that in a good way.

I have never attended a session – even with royalty present – when there wasn’t warmth, humour, and laughter.

The first is perhaps the nation’s best kept secret.  The ministers and people who make up the Church of Scotland have a great sense of humour.

They can laugh at themselves, and they can take a joke.  I have never attended a session – even with royalty present – when there wasn’t warmth, humour, and laughter.

The reputation for dour sobriety couldn’t be further from the truth.

The second is that the people there regularly let me see a sense of duty towards the whole nation.

An openness and sense of service that is not always noticed by the rest of us. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, it seems to me that the Kirk tries to make itself available to everyone in Scotland.

It has been the principal Christian presence in the country for nearly five centuries now, but that’s not just a bit of history; it’s about pastoral care and practical action at the service of everyone in the country.

My friends at the General Assembly deserve a pat on the back for their concern for us all, and for doing it with a smile.  Have a good one!

Thought for the Day was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday 21 May 2024.

Study Theology in Edinburgh (Webinar)

Join our webinar to discover all about the forthcoming MA in Applied Catholic Theology Course at St Mary's University's Scottish campus in Edinburgh.

It takes place on Wednesday 29 May from 6:00pm to 7:00pm on Zoom. Register at

The 60-minute session includes:

SAAS funding is available for all Scottish students taking the MA in Applied Catholic Theology course 2024/25.

The course is offered by St Mary’s University in partnership with the Archdiocese at the Gillis Centre in Edinburgh.

To register/enquire about the course itself please visit or email 

Laudato Si' Week: 19-26 May

Laudato Si' week runs from the 19- 26 May with the theme Seeds of Hope.

It began as a way to celebrate the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ papal encyclical letter, Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home.

Since then, the annual celebration has become a way for all Catholics to unite and rejoice in the progress made in bringing Laudato Si’ to life and to commit ourselves to further prayer and action for our common home.

This Laudato Si’ Week website states: "Let us be seeds of hope in our lives and our world, rooted in faith and love."

Laudate Deum, the 2023 apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis, is a reminder about the urgency of the Laudato Si’ message.

A webinar titled 'Imagining a Christian Response to the Climate Crisis', organised by Laudato Si´Animators Scotland, takes place at 7.00-8.30pm on Thursday 23 May. Register here.

Find out more and download the celebration guide at

WATCH: Archbishop's message to MSPs

Archbishop Leo Cushley spoke today at The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in the Time for Reflection spot.

Watch the broadcast below or on our YouTube.

Almost twenty years ago to the day, I started working as a diplomat for the Vatican at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.I had already had diplomatic experience in other countries, mostly in bilateral relations.

I had survived four years in the midst of a civil war; I had helped negotiate an international treaty; and I had even learned a new language or two.

But coming to the UN was completely different.

I enjoyed it, going at a hundred miles an hour Monday to Friday, sometimes pulling an all-nighter because the Holy See and Cuba couldn’t agree on language to go into a draft resolution until 3:40 on a Saturday morning when all the coke and crisps had been emptied from the dispensers and we were all begging for mercy…

I learned a lot too, about me and about other people.

First, I made good friends, and I’ve kept many of them since.

But one thing that has really stuck with me ever since is that I learned not to fall out with people just because we didn’t agree on a given text, or draft resolution or decision.

What I mean is this: In one day you could find yourself discussing three entirely different topics, say the NPT – nuclear disarmament – in the morning, followed by the UN Population Fund at lunchtime, followed by a debate on refugees in the afternoon.

And we were there, all 193 countries if we wanted to be – but each of us, in each meeting, would have a different approach to the question on the table.

And I began to think of the relationships among each of the members states in each meeting being like a mosaic.  The mosaic – the relationships between us all – changed according to what was on the table.

For example, I remember a diplomat of a Nordic country and I were on completely opposite sides of an argument in one meeting; but not long after, another diplomat of the same country and I were able to draw the representatives of the G77 and the EU together, because the Nordic and I were friends, we trusted each other, and they trusted us.

The mosaic shifted, the relationship was positive, and a modest success was achieved that evening.

The point I’m making is one that should be familiar to members here.

We don’t all agree on everything, and we never will; but let’s notice that if we can’t agree or if we can’t win, we all still serve the common good.

Where we can agree, fine; where we cannot, let’s remain friends and keep channels open, because the next time could be the time you need each other.

A healthy democracy needs less cancelling and more honesty, and it needs positive and helpful relationships that ultimately serve not ourselves, but the common good and the people who sent us here.

In the meantime, please be assured of the prayers and the support of the people I represent.

Thank you.

Join us in Dunfermline for the St Margaret Pilgrimage on 23 June

Join hundreds of people in Dunfermline this summer for the annual St Margaret Pilgrimage.

It takes place on Sunday 23 June and sees the return of the popular procession through the city centre led by Archbishop Leo Cushley.

He said: "St Margaret's influence and legacy is extraordinary and much of her work was done in the historic capital of Dunfermline.

"Her virtue and holiness helped transform not just her own family but the life of the nation for the next thousand years.

"So I invite you to join us as a pilgrim on Sunday 23 June as we process with her holy relic up through the High Street to St Margaret's Memorial Church where we will celebrate Holy Mass in her honour."

The procession will gather at the Louise Carnegie on Bridge Street (opposite the Seven Kings Pub) at 2:00pm.

Earlier in the day there will be an outdoor prayer service at the tomb of St Margaret at the historic Dunfermline Abbey, led by Archbishop Cushley (12:30pm).

Why not spend the day in Dunfermline and take advantage of what the historic city has to offer? You can enjoy a wander around Abbot House and its gardens, visit Andrews Carnegie's Birthplace Museum and enjoy the beauty of Pittencrieff Park (known locally as 'The Glen'). See

We recommend that pilgrims visit St Margaret's Cave, and descend the atmospheric 87 steps where St Margaret prayed over 900 years ago.



The roots of the summer pilgrimage date back to June 1250 when the relics of Saint Margaret were translated to a new shrine in Dunfermline Abbey following her canonisation by Pope Innocent IV.

A pilgrimage to Dunfermline soon emerged and continued until the late 16th Century. It was then resurrected in 1899 and continued again until 1974.

Archbishop Cushley revived it in 2015 and it has continued since then, except a hiatus due to the pandemic.

Fr Derek Powney RIP

The Requiem Mass for Fr Derek Powney was celebrated today (Thursday 16 May) at St Margaret’s Church, Davidson's Mains, Edinburgh.

Born in Bournemouth in 1940 and raised as a Methodist, Fr Derek Powney was an Oxford-trained physicist (and a friend of Stephen Hawking) who, after a period of research and teaching at Bristol University, became a science teacher at Bradfield College and Mill Hill School.

He married Aileen, an Episcopalian from Edinburgh, and the couple had two sons.

After a deputy headship in Basildon he was appointed as Headteacher of Abbs Cross School, Hornchurch.

Called to the Anglican ministry, he was ordained in the Church of England shortly after his wife had become a Catholic.

He served at St John the Baptist, Tilbury Docks, and in due course was himself received into the Catholic Church.

After a period of training at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh, he was ordained priest by Bishop McMahon on 24 June 2000 and was appointed to St John Fisher, Prittlewell, as well as Catholic Chaplain to Southend Hospital.

In 2001 he moved to Sacred Heart, Southend-on-Sea, from where he continued to serve Prittlewell.

In 2009 he retired to Edinburgh, where he died on 22 April 2024 aged 83.

Archbishop Leo Cushley was the main celebrant at the Requiem Mass and Fr Powney's ashes were interred at Mortonhall Crematorium.

May he rest in peace.

Joint statement calls for an end to war in the Holy Land

Archbishop Bill Nolan of Glasgow and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland have signed a joint statement calling for an end to war in the Middle East.

Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton and the Archbishop pray that people in positions of power end the "senseless violence" and have the courage and wisdom to pursue the path of justice and peace for all who call the Holy Land home.

The two religious leaders said "enough is enough" and spoke out after Gaza's only Catholic priest, Father Gabriel Romanelli, visited Glasgow last Friday (main image).

He shared the plight of his Holy Family Parish congregation, said people are "living in hell" and called for a ceasefire, describing it as a necessary step to restart dialogue between all parties.

The Moderator, the Archbishop and other ecumenical partner representatives attended the event, organised by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) and Justice and Peace Scotland at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

The statement

On the occasion of Fr Gabriel Romanelli's visit to Glasgow on 26 April 2024, we, the undersigned, express our solidarity with the people of the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, the Christian community of the Holy Land and people of all faiths and none across the region tormented by war.

In recent months, millions of innocent people have suffered the consequences of violence and war.

Families and communities have been devastated.

Many have lost hope for a peaceful future.

Men, women and children have been robbed of their innate human dignity and their right to survive and thrive.

Our cry is "Enough is enough".

Today we cry out to all people in positions of power to end this senseless violence.

We pray to Almighty God that their hearts may be turned towards compassion, and that they may have the courage and wisdom to pursue the path of justice and peace for all who call the Holy Land home.

This article is adapted from the Church of Scotland article here.  Title image of Father Gabriel Romanelli by James Cave, SCIAF.

A voice for the unborn in Edinburgh

Thanks to everyone who attended the annual Pro-Life Chain in Lothian Road, Edinburgh, on Saturday.

The event is organised by The Society for Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and it saw around 200 people gather as a peaceful witness to the lives of the unborn who are killed by abortion.

SPUC posted on Facebook: "A huge thank you to all pro-lifers who stood in defence of life yesterday at SPUC’s Edinburgh pro-life chain.

"Over 200 people attended the pro-life chain, as a powerful act of witness to remember the lives lost and hurt by abortion in the UK.

"The courage of our pro-life community is truly inspiring and together we will make abortion unthinkable!"

The day began with recitation of The Rosary at Sacred Heart Church in nearby Lauriston Street, led by Fr Gerard Hatton (St Patrick's Church in The Cowgate) and joined by the Marian Franciscans, who travelled from Dundee for the event.

Paul Atkin, from the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office said: "The Pro-Life Chain reminds us of the infinite dignity of every human person from the first moment of their conception.

"The Church is committed to protecting the weakest and most vulnerable people in society who are created in the image and likeness of God.

"In Scotland today, unborn children and their mothers are the most threatened members of society when even their right to life is taken away.

"It was great to see so many Catholics from all over Scotland supporting this peaceful witness to the goodness of life."

To find out more about the work of SPUC, visit Find out more about pro-life work in the Archdiocese by contacting

World Communications Day

In his message for the 58th World Day of Communications, Pope Francis urges humanity to cultivate wisdom of the heart in the age of artificial intelligence.

Celebrated on Sunday 12 May, this year's theme is closely linked to the Pope’s message for the World Day of Peace, which was devoted to the development of systems of artificial intelligence (AI).

Bishop Joseph Toal (Motherwell Diocese), President of  National Communications Commission has released this letter highlighting the themes of the Holy Father's message, (Pope Francis' message can be read at the bottom of this article).

A special collection will take place at all Masses for the apostolate of communications to fund the Catholic Media Office which represents the Church in a challenging media context in Scotland.

The Archdiocese

Matt Meade is the Communications Director for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. He helps parishes on all matters of communications. Please do not hesitate to contact him for  help or advice: | 07833 208 211.

The Archdiocese recently hosted an online workshop for those who help their parish with social media/newsletters/website. The next one takes place on  Saturday 12 October, 10:00am - 11:30am. To register email

There are a range of ways we keep people in touch with news and events across the Archdiocese. 

Website: Find out the latest news from the Archdiocese and beyond at

Mailing List: Receive monthly updates by subscribing to our mailing list at

Calendar:  On our news page scroll down to view our events calendar.

YouTube: Our channel features talks, Zoom events, news, playlists and more. Visit


Twitter: @archedinburgh

Instagram: @standrewsedinburgh


The Holy Father's message for World Communications Day

Dear brothers and sisters!

The development of systems of artificial intelligence, to which I devoted my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, is radically affecting the world of information and communication, and through it, certain foundations of life in society.

These changes affect everyone, not merely professionals in those fields. The rapid spread of astonishing innovations, whose workings and potential are beyond the ability of most of us to understand and appreciate, has proven both exciting and disorienting.

This leads inevitably to deeper questions about the nature of human beings, our distinctiveness and the future of the species homo sapiens in the age of artificial intelligence. How can we remain fully human and guide this cultural transformation to serve a good purpose?

Starting with the heart

Before all else, we need to set aside catastrophic predictions and their numbing effects. A century ago, Romano Guardini reflected on technology and humanity. Guardini urged us not to reject “the new” in an attempt to “preserve a beautiful world condemned to disappear”.

At the same time, he prophetically warned that “we are constantly in the process of becoming. We must enter into this process, each in his or her own way, with openness but also with sensitivity to everything that is destructive and inhumane therein”.

Pope Francis will take part in the upcoming G7 session on Artificial Intelligence.

— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) April 26, 2024

And he concluded: “These are technical, scientific and political problems, but they cannot be resolved except by starting from our humanity. A new kind of human being must take shape, endowed with a deeper spirituality and new freedom and interiority”.[1]

At this time in history, which risks becoming rich in technology and poor in humanity, our reflections must begin with the human heart.[2]Only by adopting a spiritual way of viewing reality, only by recovering a wisdom of the heart, can we confront and interpret the newness of our time and rediscover the path to a fully human communication.

In the Bible, the heart is seen as the place of freedom and decision-making.

It symbolises integrity and unity, but it also engages our emotions, desires, dreams; it is, above all, the inward place of our encounter with God. Wisdom of the heart, then, is the virtue that enables us to integrate the whole and its parts, our decisions and their consequences, our nobility and our vulnerability, our past and our future, our individuality and our membership within a larger community.

This wisdom of the heart lets itself be found by those who seek it and be seen by those who love it; it anticipates those who desire it and it goes in search of those who are worthy of it (cf.Wis6:12-16). It accompanies those willing to take advice (cf.Prov  13:10), those endowed with a docile and listening heart (cf.1 Kg3:9). A gift of the Holy Spirit, it enables us to look at things with God’s eyes, to see connections, situations, events and to uncover their real meaning.

Without this kind of wisdom, life becomes bland, since it is precisely wisdom – whose Latin rootsapere  is related to the noun sapor– that gives “savour” to life.

Opportunity and danger

Such wisdom cannot be sought from machines. Although the term “artificial intelligence” has now supplanted the more correct term, “machine learning”, used in scientific literature, the very use of the word “intelligence” can prove misleading. N

o doubt, machines possess a limitlessly greater capacity than human beings for storing and correlating data, but human beings alone are capable of making sense of that data. It is not simply a matter of making machines appear more human, but of awakening humanity from the slumber induced by the illusion of omnipotence, based on the belief that we are completely autonomous and self-referential subjects, detached from all social bonds and forgetful of our status as creatures.

Human beings have always realised that they are not self-sufficient and have sought to overcome their vulnerability by employing every means possible. From the earliest prehistoric artifacts, used as extensions of the arms, and then the media, used as an extension of the spoken word, we have now become capable of creating highly sophisticated machines that act as a support for thinking.

🎥VIDEO | Pope Francis discusses the impact of AI on humanity in his World Communications Day message, emphasizing the need for a heart-led approach to technology. He calls for ethical regulation, transparency, and the use of AI to foster equality and human communication.

— EWTN Vatican (@EWTNVatican) February 7, 2024

Each of these instruments, however, can be abused by the primordial temptation to become like God without God (cf.Gen3), that is, to want to grasp by our own effort what should instead be freely received as a gift from God, to be enjoyed in the company of others.

Depending on the inclination of the heart, everything within our reach becomes either an opportunity or a threat. Our very bodies, created for communication and communion, can become a means of aggression.

So too, every technical extension of our humanity can be a means of loving service or of hostile domination. Artificial intelligence systems can help to overcome ignorance and facilitate the exchange of information between different peoples and generations. For example, they can render accessible and understandable an enormous patrimony of written knowledge from past ages or enable communication between individuals who do not share a common language.

Yet, at the same time, they can be a source of “cognitive pollution”, a distortion of reality by partially or completely false narratives, believed and broadcast as if they were true.

We need but think of the long-standing problem of disinformation in the form of fake news,[3]which today can employ “deepfakes”, namely the creation and diffusion of images that appear perfectly plausible but false (I too have been an object of this), or of audio messages that use a person’s voice to say things which that person never said. The technology of simulation behind these programmes can be useful in certain specific fields, but it becomes perverse when it distorts our relationship with others and with reality.

Starting with the first wave of artificial intelligence, that of social media, we have experienced its ambivalence: its possibilities but also its risks and associated pathologies. The second level of generative artificial intelligence unquestionably represents a qualitative leap. It is important therefore to understand, appreciate and regulate instruments that, in the wrong hands could lead to disturbing scenarios.

Like every other product of human intelligence and skill, algorithms are not neutral. For this reason, there is a need to act preventively, by proposing models of ethical regulation, to forestall harmful, discriminatory and socially unjust effects of the use of systems of artificial intelligence and to combat their misuse for the purpose of reducing pluralism, polarising public opinion or creating forms of groupthink. I once more appeal to the international community “to work together in order to adopt a binding international treaty that regulates the development and use of artificial intelligence in its many forms”.[4]At the same time, as in every human context, regulation is, of itself, not sufficient.

Growth in humanity

All of us are called to grow together, in humanity and as humanity. We are challenged to make a qualitative leap in order to become a complex, multi-ethnic, pluralistic, multireligious and multicultural society.

We are called to reflect carefully on the theoretical development and the practical use of these new instruments of communication and knowledge. Their great possibilities for good are accompanied by the risk of turning everything into abstract calculations that reduce individuals to data, thinking to a mechanical process, experience to isolated cases, goodness to profit, and, above all, a denial of the uniqueness of each individual and his or her story.

The concreteness of reality dissolves in a flurry of statistical data.

The digital revolution can bring us greater freedom, but not if it imprisons us in models that nowadays are called “echo chambers”. In such cases, rather than increasing a pluralism of information, we risk finding ourselves adrift in a mire of confusion, prey to the interests of the market or of the powers that be.

It is unacceptable that the use of artificial intelligence should lead to groupthink, to a gathering of unverified data, to a collective editorial dereliction of duty. The representation of reality in “big data”, however useful for the operation of machines, ultimately entails a substantial loss of the truth of things, hindering interpersonal communication and threatening our very humanity.

Information cannot be separated from living relationships. These involve the body and immersion in the real world; they involve correlating not only data but also human experiences; they require sensitivity to faces and facial expressions, compassion and sharing.

Here I think of the reporting of wars and the “parallel war” being waged through campaigns of disinformation. I think too of all those reporters who have been injured or killed in the line of duty in order to enable us to see what they themselves had seen. For only by such direct contact with the suffering of children, women and men, can we come to appreciate the absurdity of wars.

The use of artificial intelligence can make a positive contribution to the communications sector, provided it does not eliminate the role of journalism on the ground but serves to support it. Provided too that it values the professionalism of communication, making every communicator more aware of his or her responsibilities, and enables all people to be, as they should, discerning participants in the work of communication.

Questions for today and for the future

In this regard, a number of questions naturally arise. How do we safeguard professionalism and the dignity of workers in the fields of information and communication, together with that of users throughout the world?

How do we ensure the interoperability of platforms? How do we enable businesses that develop digital platforms to accept their responsibilities with regard to content and advertising in the same way as editors of traditional communications media?

How do we make more transparent the criteria guiding the operation of algorithms for indexing and de-indexing, and for search engines that are capable of celebrating or cancelling persons and opinions, histories and cultures?

How do we guarantee the transparency of information processing? How do we identify the paternity of writings and the traceability of sources concealed behind the shield of anonymity?

How do we make it clear whether an image or video is portraying an event or simulating it? How do we prevent sources from being reduced to one alone, thus fostering a single approach, developed on the basis of an algorithm? How instead do we promote an environment suitable for preserving pluralism and portraying the complexity of reality?

How can we make sustainable a technology so powerful, costly and energy-consuming? And how can we make it accessible also to developing countries?

The answers we give to these and other questions will determine if artificial intelligence will end up creating new castes based on access to information and thus giving rise to new forms of exploitation and inequality.

Or, if it will lead to greater equality by promoting correct information and a greater awareness of the epochal change that we are experiencing by making it possible to acknowledge the many needs of individuals and of peoples within a well-structured and pluralistic network of information. If, on the one hand, we can glimpse the spectre of a new form of slavery, on the other, we can also envision a means of greater freedom; either the possibility that a select few can condition the thought of others, or that all people can participate in the development of thought.

The answer we give to these questions is not pre-determined; it depends on us. It is up to us to decide whether we will become fodder for algorithms or will nourish our hearts with that freedom without which we cannot grow in wisdom. Such wisdom matures by using time wisely and embracing our vulnerabilities.

It grows in the covenant between generations, between those who remember the past and who look ahead to the future. Only together can we increase our capacity for discernment and vigilance and for seeing things in the light of their fulfilment. Lest our humanity lose its bearings, let us seek the wisdom that was present before all things (cf.Sir 1:4): it will help us also to put systems of artificial intelligence at the service of a fully human communication.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 24 January 2024


1]Letters from Lake Como.
[2]The 2024 Message for the World Day of Social Communications takes up the preceding Messages devoted to encountering persons where and how they are(2021), to hearing with the ear of the heart(2022) andspeaking to the heart(2023).
[3]Cf.“The Truth Will Make You Free” (Jn 8:32). Fake News and Journalism for Peace, Message for the 2018 World Day of Social Communications.
[4] Message for the 57th World Day of Peace, 1 January 2024, 8.


Catholics urged to reject ‘dangerous’ assisted suicide

The bishops of Scotland say Catholics must urge their MSPs to reject the recently published assisted suicide proposals.

They make the call in a pastoral letter that will be read out in all of Scotland’s 460 Catholic parishes, at all Masses on 27 & 28 April.

The bishops describe the proposal put forward by Liam McArthur MSP, as “dangerous".

They call on MSPs to focus their energies on improving palliative care which the bishops say is “underfunded and limited”.

When vulnerable people express concerns about being a burden, the appropriate response is not to suggest that they have a duty to die.

The letter states, that a law which “allows us to kill our brothers and sisters takes us down a dangerous spiral that always puts at risk the most vulnerable members of our society, including the elderly, and disabled, and those who struggle with mental health”.

The letter cites evidence from other jurisdictions where assisted suicide is legal, including Oregon, where consistently around half of people who choose assisted suicide do so because they feel they are a burden on their families or on their communities and healthcare system.

“When vulnerable people, including the elderly and disabled, express concerns about being a burden”, say the bishops, “the appropriate response is not to suggest that they have a duty to die; rather, it is to commit to meeting their needs and providing the care and compassion they need to help them live”.

The bishops point out: “When our society is already marked by so many inequalities, we do not need assisted suicide to put intolerable pressure on our most disadvantaged who do not have a voice in this debate.”

Please contact your MSP today to stop assisted suicide becoming legal in Scotland. Guidance on contacting your MSPs is available at, or email for more information.