WATCH: Christmas message & homily from Archbishop Cushley

In his Christmas message, Archbishop Leo Cushley calls us to pray for peace. Watch below or on YouTube.

Read his Homily from Christmas Midnight Mass at the bottom of this page or here.


Homily of Archbishop Cushley
Christmas Midnight Mass, St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh

Brothers and sisters in Christ, my dear friends,

First of all, let me wish every one of you a peaceful Christmas and a very good New Year.

On your behalf, I would like to express my gratitude to Mgr Burke, the clergy and sisters, and the many volunteers who make every visit to our cathedral special.  It was lovely to meet so many of you the other night, and I agree with all that Mgr Burke said to you.  You make me very proud to be your bishop.

Sixty years ago this year, the world was celebrating Christmas in a sobering light, that of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The world came very close indeed to a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, and recent access to the archives of the Kremlin and the White House make it very clear that it was only with the greatest skill, on the part of President Kennedy in particular, that the world was steered away from self-destruction.  The crisis prompted Pope St John XXIII to write an encyclical on the subject.

For its name, he chose the title Pacem in terris – peace on earth - something that must have sounded ironic, hopeless, or even naïf, as the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over the world.

How can there be peace on earth?  How can humanity ever escape its own ability to destroy itself dozens of times over, whether deliberately, or by error or chance?

Even today, as the number of nuclear-capable countries increases and the superpowers plan in earnest to update their nuclear arsenals, the question becomes ever more complex, even to the point that the decision may be taken away from politicians and left to algorithms that know nothing of the respect due to human life, to all known life.

And yet, John XXIII was surely inspired when he decided to call his letter, Pacem in terris.  For the title of his urgent call to peace comes of course from this very night, the night of Christmas.

Over the infant in Bethlehem, at top of their voices the angels sing “Glory in the highest heaven, and on earth peace towards all people of good will”.  We needed that peace in 1962, and we need it still.  John F. Kennedy did something truly remarkable to save us from disaster.

But the struggle to distance ourselves from man-made catastrophe continues.

The Church knows this instinctively, too.

Since before the dark ages, every time Roman Christians gather for Mass, they have prayed for peace.

The opening words of the bishop at Mass are “Peace be with you”.  These are the words of the risen Lord to the confused and dismayed apostles on the first Easter in the upper room.  Those words are also the gift of Christ’s peace to all his followers, even to us in our day.

Every time we sing the Gloria, our opening words are “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will”.

Immediately after the Our Father, we beg God for the peace that only the Lord can bestow; we ask the Lord to grant us “peace in our day” – and we do so at every celebration of Mass.

We then wish each other “the peace of the Lord”, with a word or a gesture.  At the centre of every Eucharist, we meet the living Lord and we rejoice in our communion with him and with each other.  But that aside, the words we hear most often are prayers to almighty God for peace.  We somehow know instinctively that we need God’s peace, and that we are incapable of building it alone.

These days, our minds naturally turn to our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine and to the estimated quarter of a million lives already lost in the conflict to date.  On your behalf, I have visited our Ukrainian Catholic parish here, as well as their cathedral which is in London.

They worry for their loved ones, for their homeland.  They carry a terrible burden, and we want to share it with them, first by simply standing beside them.  But when we do so in church, the last thing we should do is be here as a protest, or for politics, or as virtue-signalling.

When we come to church, we bow our heads, humbly and silently, in the presence of almighty God; we remember those we love and care for; and we hold them in prayer before Him.  Because when we come to God’s house, we look for a word of comfort, of love, of peace, for ourselves, for everyone.  Outside, we are free to work and struggle for a human kind of peace.  In here, we implore God for His peace.

Jesus Christ, born in a stable, is that Word of peace.  He is our Mighty God.  He is the Prince of Peace.  Our God is a God of peace, and He is a God who saves.

And Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate word, is Emmanuel, God among us.

Gabriel commanded both Joseph and Mary to name the child Jesus, for in Him God saves His people.  He is the one sent to save his people from sin, from death, from ourselves.  There is no redemption expect by the name of Jesus, God who saves.

Famously, the best of our Christmas Mass prayers come down to us from the far-off fifth century, from Pope St Leo the Great.  They are among the most sublime prayers in the entire Missal.

They speak beautifully of Jesus, the Word of God who becomes like us in order to save us.  Leo writes that we become consortes, or partakers, partners with God in the great act of our redemption, in the great work of peace.

We give to God our poor mortal flesh, and he clothes it in his divinity, making us even more wonderfully complete than we were before.  Redeemed by Jesus, God who saves, we can rest in peace, in the hope that, one day, all will truly be well.  The Christmas prayers of Leo were written between 440 and 461, when Attila the Hun threatened the city of Rome, not once but twice.

The “armyless”, defenceless city was threatened, while Roman Christians prayed with deep anxiety for peace.  But the prayers they used, and that we use to this day, are full of the stillness and beauty and peace of Christmas. These prayers were forged in a terrible moment of crisis, yet they speak profoundly and beautifully of the Church’s faith, and hope, and trust in Jesus, the God who saves, the Prince of Peace.

Our Roman Christian ancestors acknowledged openly that the actual date of Christ’s birth was unknown, but they could think of no better time in the year to celebrate Christmas and the rebirth of light and hope than now, just after the winter solstice.  Christians take this “dark before the dawn” and call it Christmas, because the birth of Jesus is the great turning point, towards light, towards hope, towards peace.

As we face various problems, national and international, let us, like our forebears, thank God for the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Let’s earnestly pray to Him this year for the grace that we are unable to give ourselves, the great gift of peace that the Christ child alone can bestow.

A very peaceful and joyful Christmas to everyone here.  God bless you all!

[Images: Benedicta Lin]

LISTEN: Archbishop's Thought for the Day

Archbishop Cushley gave the Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland ths morning (Wednesday 21 December). Listen to it below or on YouTube. Transcript below video.

Archbishop Cushley's Thought for the Day

"Good morning!

The very earliest archaeological evidence – from perhaps as long ago as 11,000 years – tells us that human beings noticed what happens today a very long time ago.

That is because today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Several thousand years later, Roman Christians noticed it too.

They knew there was no exact date known for the birth of Jesus, but they couldn’t think of a better time of the year than now to remember his birth.  And Christmas caught on…

At this time of the year, it has been getting darker and darker, and no one really likes that.

We’re creatures of warmth and light and we respond naturally to both.

The Greek storyteller Aesop tells the story of the sun and the wind arguing over who could make a man take his coat off.  The wind tried first: he blew and blew, and instead of the man taking his coat off, he just wrapped it around himself more and more.  The sun then shone upon him…and the man willingly took off the coat.

At Christmas, we celebrate how Jesus is the Light - and the loving warmth - of God, a light that cannot be overcome.

But there is little doubt that 2022 has not been a very happy one for the world’s peoples.

Brexit and Covid and inflation all loom over us.  Above all, continental Europe, accustomed to 70 years of peace, has seen war break out.

We have a lot to concern us, and a lot of grown-up thinking and acting now before us.

Our ancient ancestors noticed that today is the darkest day of the year.

But they also noticed that it preceded a gradual change back towards the light and the warmth that we all need, that we all enjoy.

Christians take this dark before the dawn – this happy moment - and call it Christmas, because we see the birth of Jesus as a turning point, towards the good, towards God, towards the warmth and the light of God.

Things can and do change for the better.  I hope they will for us all.

A merry Christmas when it comes!"

WATCH: School Christmas Gallery

Schools across the Archdiocese have put on nativity plays to retell the birth of Jesus as part of the celebration of our Catholic Faith.
We thank them for keeping Christ in Christmas, and for their festive charity initiatives to help those in need. We wish pupils, teachers, support staff & volunteers a happy, holy Christmas! Watch the video below or on YouTube.

Archbishop: Holy Family our inspiration as we move towards 2021

Archbishop Cushley has called for Catholic families to imitate the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as Scotland moves towards a new year under the highest Covid restriction levels.

Speaking during his online Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family, he said: "Today we remember in these times how our usual freedoms have been much curtailed for the sake of the common good. And that has got us all thinking about our families.

"With the highest level of restrictions coming into place in Scotland as of Boxing Day, our visits to families and friends are now very much restricted.

"This means that we have had to treasure every opportunity we have had to be together with family and friends in the last few days, in a way that our generation anyway has never had to face. It’s a sobering lesson for sobering times.

"But I'm hopeful that many of you will turn it to account and will learn again to value the affection and closeness of those around us, the importance of patience, small gestures and giving way to others, of peace and harmony in the home.

"As we all know, these things are rarely achieved without some effort. But we have examples at hand to help us. As I said (during Mass) on Christmas Day, Joseph and Mary very obliged to go on a journey to Bethlehem in the middle of winter when she was heavily pregnant . They were alone, far from family and help, and stuck in a stable when Mary had to give birth.

"But their love for each other and for Jesus kept them going. They have always been an example of love and support for us too, but in the context of a Covid Christmas, their perseverance, forebearance and affection for each other is more eloquent to us than ever.

"Let's learn from their goodness and their love for each other as we move forward towards a new year."

WATCH: Christmas Day Mass with Archbishop Cushley

Holy Mass for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, celebrated by Archbishop Cushley. Recorded at St Bennet's, Edinburgh.

Act of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus,
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.


WATCH: Christmas Day message from Archbishop Cushley

Archbishop Cushley has thanked priests and parishioners in his Christmas Day message for 2020.

He reminded viewers us to have hope amidst a difficult year and to place their trust in Jesus Christ, while reflecting on lessons learnt in 2020.

He said: "I would like to express my sincere thanks to the clergy and to all of you that have helped them open our churches in a way that is safe and responsible.

"As we celebrate Christmas we remember Jesus was born in constrained and difficult times harder than our own. We should remember that no matter what happens today or in the future Jesus Christ is the son of God." Full transcript below.

Christmas Day Message

My dear friends, what a year this has been. We have learnt some sobering lessons and 2020 has been made sadder by the departure of many people who would be here if it weren’t for the pandemic.

Nonetheless, we have also learnt many lessons about how important we are to each other and how precious is the time that we spend together.

We’ve also learned the value of helping each other and reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves especially the poor, the elderly, the lonely, the sick, the dying, and those who are now facing unemployment in the present circumstances.

We have also a little more hope in our hearts now that a vaccine is being distributed and I'm sure that you will join me in congratulating those who have prepared it in such a short space of time.

I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the clergy and to all of you that have helped them open our churches in a way that is safe and responsible.

As we celebrate Christmas we remember Jesus was born in constrained and difficult times harder than our own. We should remember that no matter what happens today or in the future Jesus Christ is the son of God. He is the same yesterday and today and forever.He is our joy and our hope and our salvation.

As we look forward to 2021 we do so with gratitude for the blessings that we have received during 2020. and there are many in spite of and sometimes because of the circumstances in which we have found ourselves.

And we hope to learn some lessons about how important we are to each other and how we matter to each other and how we ought to look out for each other better. And we hope to learn how to appreciate and to treasure the liberties that we have taken for granted and the opportunities that we still have to gather with each other and two worship God, especially at Mass and in the sacraments.

I hope that you will have a happy and holy Christmas with you and yours and I pray that all of us will be able to have a very good new year. 

God bless you.

GALLERY: Happy Christmas to our Catholic schools!

Happy Christmas to the Catholic school community in our Archdiocese from our Education Team. Thanks for keeping Christ in Christmas!

Silent Night performed by Anna and Maddy from the Schola Cantorum at St Mary's Cathedral. Accompanied by Michael Ferguson. CD album With Angels & Archangels is available to buy here.

WATCH: Christmas message from Scottish church leaders

Archbishop Cushley is one of 10 figures who have each recited a line of a heartfelt message in a Christmas video from the Scottish Church Leaders Forum.

They decided to come together in recognition that many people are grappling with difficulties and uncertainties due to the impact of COVID-19. It is hoped that sharing the Good News about the birth of Jesus Christ will bring some comfort, hope and peace to those who are struggling.

The Scottish Church Leaders Forum was formed in March in response to the pandemic to speak on issues of mutual concern with one voice.

They are responsible for the ecumenical prayers published for every Sunday at 7pm.

Get ready for Advent with our Festive 5!

In this final week before Advent we've put together five ways you can prepare spiritually for the new liturgical year which begins on Sunday.

1. Join the Archbishop's Advent talk this Sunday

Archbishop Cushley picks apart the impact of the pandemic with a message of hope as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. His talk is titled 'Unwrapping Advent' and it takes place on Zoom this Sunday (29 Nov) from 7-8pm. Register now:

2. Get familiar with St Mark

Advent is the start of the new liturgical year, where we hear St Mark's Gospel at Sunday Mass. Let Father Andrew Garden (St David's, Dalkeith) guide you in this video.

3. Practice charity

Parishes across the Archdiocese are running initiatives to help struggling families in their community this Christmas. If you can make a donation, please do so. Our Caritas, Justice & Peace Commission sent this article to all parishes on how we can practice charity in our parish during Advent. Check out the below video to see the amazing response to a toy appeal at St Francis Xavier's in Falkirk.

4. Pray the Rosary!

Join people across the Archdiocese on Zoom to pray for unborn children, their mothers and all Pro-Life intentions. Begins this Monday at 7:00pm and each following Monday in Advent. To register, click here.

Our Catechetics team has also put together this Meaning of Advent pamphlet telling you all about this important season. We'll also make available our Children's Liturgy at Home guide for each Sunday in Advent (click resources on this page).

Priests! Check out these handy online resources

5. Go on silent retreat

Take time out at St Mary's Monastery at Kinnoull, Perth, to prepare in joyful expectation for the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Charlie Corrigan C.Ss.R. will lead the retreat with inspiring talks in a time of prayerful, silent recollection, with opportunities to celebrate the Sacraments and join in community prayer.

If you're a priest, you can go on an Advent afternoon of recollection (online).

Generous parishioners pack hall with presents!

A Great Toy Giveaway will take place this weekend at St Francis Xavier's Parish in Falkirk thanks to the generosity of parishioners and the local community.

A parish appeal for toys, books and various gifts led to a church hall packed with presents, meaning struggling parents can give children a Christmas to remember.

Parish priest, Fr Jamie Boyle, said: "What an amazing response to our Toy Exchange. This will lighten the burden for so many families this Christmas and it’s good for the planet too!"

A parishioner posted a video on the Parish Facebook page and said: "When Fr Jamie came in and looked at the hall and saw everything, he filled up, because I don't quite think he could believe the generosity."

They added: "Thanks to the generosity of our parishioners we have loads of great toys, games, books, bikes, prams, dolls...all free to take away and hopefully fill a child with joy on Christmas morning."

The Great Toy Giveaway will take place in St Francis Xavier’s Hall, next to the library on Hope Street, 10:00am till 4:00pm.

Practical charity

Archbishop Cushley is encouraging parishes across the Archdiocese to do what they can to support struggling families this Christmas.

He shared a message from the diocesan Caritas, Justice & Peace Commission on practical steps to help those who need support, particularly at Christmas.

Fr Basil Clark, who leads the commission, wrote to clergy following the recent World Day of Prayer for the Poor: "We decided that this was not the year for yet another special collection, drawing resources from the parishes. We want to encourage Catholics to act by getting involved in practical acts of charity, locally, particularly as we approach Christmas, which can be a difficult and stressful time for parents in need."

Fr Basil has highlighted the following to parishes:

The Society of St Vincent de Paul The SSVP do a power of work for the poor in the Archdiocese. Many of our parishes have an SSVP conference in which members quietly work to give support to the poor and work with other organisations in bringing relief to those in need. In our Archdiocese, the SSVP runs a Caravan Project, giving holidays and respite breaks to families. It's furniture project makes hundreds of deliveries of free furniture to those who need it each year. To find out more about the work of the SSVP in Scotland visit its website.

Foodbanks Many supermarkets have donation trollies available. Please consider adding a children's toy to your shopping list to make a Christmas donation.

Schools Local schools often have a keen awareness of poverty in the local area. Look out for appeals from your local school to discover the range of  charity initiatives they may be running that you can donate to.


On a national and global level, it is easy to set up a standing order of even a very small amount to ensure you make a regular donation to charity. Some charities endorsed by the Church and which often run Christmas appeals include Missio, Mary's Meals, Aid to the Church in Need and SCIAF.

Prayer for the 2020 World Day of the Poor (Sunday 15 Nov)

Following World Day of the Poor, we encourage parishioners to pray for the poor in their community and across the world

Almighty, ever-living God, your beloved Son came to us in poverty
to win for us the riches of eternal life.
During His time on earth He taught us by word and deed.
From His death we learned of the immensity of His love;
from His resurrection we learned how to believe and to trust
that our lives have purpose from beginning to end.
Help us never to forget that every person has value and is loved by You.

Remind us that, as Your people grow older,
they do not cease to be people worthy of respect, understanding and appreciation.
Though the eyes of the elderly may grow dim,
we pray that their vision of everlasting life with You may grow ever stronger;
though their bodies may become frail,
we pray that their faith may empower them; though their minds may falter,
we pray that their memories may bring them comfort and peace.

Lord God, may we never forget your Golden Rule
to treat others as we would wish to be treated
and remember to apply that Rule most especially during the golden years of age.
Save us from falling into the trap of seeing the elderly as a burden.

We ask you, Lord God, to help us set aside material wealth
so as to recognise the spiritual riches of patience, compassion and love for all your people.
As we journey through this life side by side,
may we learn to support one another with the combined wealth of youth,
strength, wisdom and experience until we are called to the place you have prepared
for all those who are poor in spirit and rich in love.

We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.